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How do I control my thoughts?

Two of my most important beliefs are:

  • Our thoughts determine our feelings and our feelings determine our behaviour
  • We can choose what we think and change any unhelpful beliefs about ourselves.

Anyone who has looked at my Facebook page ( will see that these beliefs feature regularly in my posts.

In this blog I am going to suggest some ways to control our thoughts.

The first step is awareness, do we actually know what we are thinking and what affect it is having on the rest of our daily lives. One way to increase awareness is to keep a log or record of our thoughts. Each entry can relate to things we are not happy about, for example:

  • Our feelings – anxiety, depression, sadness, anger, stress,
  • Our actions – overeating, smoking, being hurtful or unkind (to others AND ourselves)

This can be done in a notebook – just create 3 columns headed:

  • The situation – what was going on
  • Thoughts – these can be words, images, memories and even beliefs
  • Feelings  - you can rate these on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is as bad as it can possibly get.

Do this for a week at least and then go through it looking for any thoughts etc. that happen frequently or those that make you feel the worst or have a negative affect on your behaviour.

The next step is to look at those thoughts you have selected and the associated situation and decide what would be an alternative, more realistic or helpful way to think. If you struggle with this, imagine that you are advising a friend – what would you suggest to them? You may have several ideas so decide which one you think (or feel) will be most useful.

The final step is to get into action. As soon as you start to think the negative thought you are focusing on, say to yourself STOP in whatever way is most effective for you. You may want to imagine a big red stop sign or hear someone you respect saying it in your head. Then take a nice, big deep breath and think your new positive thought. If you do this often enough it will become a new habit and you can speed up the process by practicing in your imagination while relaxing quietly on your own.

Finally, if you want to, you can move on to another regular or significant unhelpful thought. In fact, you may find yourself doing this naturally as you become more aware of your own thoughts and the effects they have. You may even find yourself changing beliefs (for example about yourself and your abilities) as your self talk becomes more positive.