What We Think Matters

Change How You Feel One Thought At A Time

I spent most of my first three decades of life allowing my feelings to rule almost every decision, every perspective, and every relationship. How I felt was how I felt, and to be true to myself, I had to abide by those feelings. I was raised with a good moral compass and was more tomboy than drama queen, so most of my feelings were pretty justified, right?

For years, I just survived these negative emotions until I figured out one key to the puzzle. As simple as it may seem; feelings follow thoughts. Your mind and emotions are interconnected to the point that you have to be thinking about something in order to have a feeling about it. If what you are thinking is negative, you will feel a negative emotion. The opposite is true as well. Taken a step further, your behavior (thoughts and actions together) has vast influence on creating and sustaining positive feelings. Just think about those great endorphins all those crazy people who love exercising talk about. (I may or may not be one of those crazy people.)

Don’t believe me? Try this: Think back to one of the saddest moments of your life. Spend a few minutes thinking about how awful it was. How do you feel? Now, take a few deep breaths and then think back to one of the happiest moments of your life. Spend a few minutes thinking about how great it was. How do you feel now? For me, I can tear up instantly if I think about getting the phone call from my best friend’s husband that she had passed away. If I spend even just 30 seconds really thinking about how awful that was, I am a flood of tears. You should literally see the makeup streaming down my face as I type this. My shoulders are hunched forward, my head is dropped down, and my whole body is turned inward. After taking a few deep breaths, I can think about when my oldest daughter was born and it literally takes me back to the relief and joy of those first few moments with her and my husband. I literally have a smile on my face. My shoulders are now back, I’m taking deep breaths, and my head is lifted. What about you?

When we spend most of our days thinking about what we have not accomplished, what is not going well, what we are not able to do, we find ourselves with the fruit of those thoughts = a negative, unhappy, unfulfilled life. What’s worse, we behave in ways that reinforce these negative thoughts and emotions. We yell at our kids or spouse, stay in bed as much as we can, and physically check out. If left unchecked, we are headed towards a full bout of depression. (If you are already there or feel like you could be, please reach out to a loved one.  You don’t have to walk through it alone.)

What if we truly change HOW we think? What does that make possible?

When we choose to focus on and think about what IS going well, we instantly can change HOW we feel. Trust me, if you look for it, you can find it. Sometimes, it’s as simple and primal as “I’m still breathing.” (If you do not place “I’m still breathing” in a positive category, please get some help ASAP.  If you are in crisis and do not have a friend, family member, pastor or counselor to reach out to, please call 1.800.273.TALK.) When we feel better, we set ourselves up to make choices that reinforce good thinking and behavior patterns, which then set us up to feel better. See how this works? I’m not trying to minimize your emotions or the severity of your experience, but I am trying to point you towards taking positive steps in the right direction.

Choose to think about what opportunities this season of life affords you even if you find yourself discontent. Is it rest? (Lucky you!) Is it an opportunity to not have to get dressed every day? (Yes!) Is it providing for your family? (What a gift!) Is it teaching your children? (Future adults!) Is it using your talents?  Is it creating?  Is it waiting?  Is it hoping?  Is it so full of activities that you can’t even catch your breath? (Life being lived!)

Is it an illness that is helping you learn compassion?  Is it a hard season in marriage that is helping you learn to love more sacrificially? Is it challenging on the financial side of things, and you are learning a whole new level of trust? Not everything is happy. Sometimes the unhappy, painful things of life give us the contrasting perspective to know and experience the depths of pure joy. 

So hold on and keep pressing forward. You have a choice. You do actually have a choice about how you feel. Change your THINKING! Change your focus! CHOOSE to feel differently today because you made a choice right now to think differently about your life.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8

Join The Conversation: Can you relate? Do you see the correlation between your feelings and thoughts and behavior? What do you find helpful? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Additional Reading:

Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe by Sally Clarkson

Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons

If You Feel Too Much: Thoughts on Things Found and Lost and Hoped For by Jamie Tworkowski (disclaimer: I have not personally read this book but have read many things that Jamie has written)

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp

Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa TerKeurst

Victory Over Depression: How to live above your circumstances by Bob George

Join the conversation! What you think may be just what someone else needs to hear...including myself! I reserve the right to delete off-topic, offensive or disrespectful comments. By posting on my blog, you give me the right to publish your comment in any medium (book, podcast, video, etc.)

4 thoughts on “What We Think Matters

  1. I love this post, Emily. I completely agree that my positive and negative thoughts determine how I feel. I was heading down the road of negative thoughts today, but because of your post, I’m making a change. I’m choosing positivity. I’m choosing peace. I’m choosing joy. I’m choosing gratitude. Thank you for your transparency and for creating this space for women like me.

    Shannon

    • Thanks for joining the conversation Shannon! So glad this helped you today. I find it SO much easier to instinctively think negatively about me, which causes me to view others or the situation that way, too. But, the fight for positivity is definitely worth it when I can feel so much better. Thanks for sharing!

  2. The part about spending most of the day thinking on what I can not accomplish or do meets me right where I am. I leave work most days feeling defeated over what I have not accomplished for the day. I have a vision of what I want my work to look like, but I don’t feel like I have time for my actions to meet my expectations. Then I go home to my kids where I compare to other moms everything I am unable to do because I work. Pity party, pity party and I’m left with not being able to enjoy life. It leaves me feeling hopeless and angry. I hope I will not feel this way forever, and I will try to focus more on what I am doing right and feed the positive emotions instead.

    • Hey Robin! So thankful for your insight! It is so hard to juggle the pressures of work and home and you are definitely not alone with the pity parties. 😉 It’s more work to push back on that negativity and comparison game when we are already so tired. You are right about choosing to feed the positive emotions. It’s a choice, and each small victory proves that it’s worth it! You don’t have to feel this way forever and I hope this is helpful for you long term. Thanks for engaging!

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