This post is Part 1 in a 4-part blog series on changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
One popular kind of counseling is called cognitive-behavioral therapy. It’s based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected and influence one another. For example, if we are feeling sad or depressed, we might have thoughts like we aren’t worth much of anything, and we might do behaviors like stay in bed all day. On the other hand, if we are feeling happy or excited, we might have thoughts like the future is bright, and we might do behaviors like call a friend or go see a movie.
Sometimes it’s helpful to keep track of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, especially if we are feeling down and want to feel happier. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I might not have an explanation for it. That happened to me a couple weeks ago. I was feeling sad, but I wasn’t sure why.
If we can pause and identify our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we might learn important information that could help us moving forward. For example, some of the thoughts I experienced that went along with my feeling sad were thinking that I was alone and out of step with most of my friends (most of whom are married and have their own families). The behaviors that went along with my feeling sad were staying in my apartment, not initiating with my friends, and not picking up the phone when someone called me.
So if I were keeping track of my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, I might write down the following:
Time: Saturday night
Thought: I’m alone. I’m out of step with my friends.
Behavior: Isolating. Not calling friends. Not picking up the phone.
As I continue to do this, I can begin to get more information about what thoughts and behaviors are associated with each of my feelings. What’s going on when I’m feeling Sad? Angry? Scared? Happy? Excited? Tender?
Getting this information is the first step toward making a change.
Action Step: Stop three times during your day today and write down your thought, feeling, and behavior. Try to do this once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Did you learn anything about yourself? What thoughts and behaviors are associated with each of your feelings?