Mind Over Mood: Feeling Better by Thinking Better

Mind Over Mood: Feeling Better by Thinking Better

Posted Aug 13, 2010

Gina complained that she felt down or upset a lot of the time. "I have no control over the way I feel," she said. When she learned that her thoughts were largely responsible for her feelings, she was able to gain much more control over her disturbing emotions. She found that, with a bit of effort and application, it became possible to control and alter many of her negative thoughts.

Almost everyone has heard the saying "mind over matter." While it's doubtful that the human mind can control objects with pure mind power, what is becoming increasingly clear is that thoughts and perceptions can dramatically influence moods, feelings, and emotions.

How many times have you heard someone say, "That really made me mad," or "He upset me," or "It bothered me," as if external events had a direct control over our moods? The fact is

• it's not events that trigger our emotions, rather it's how we think about events that determine our feelings.

Our knee-jerk emotional reactions to external stimuli are really the combined effects of the external event and our interpretation of that event. That's the cognitive connection, the link that joins together events and emotions in the chain of our experiences.

This concept is at least two thousand years old and is often attributed to the philosopher Epictetus, who said "Men [and women] feel disturbed not by things, but by the views they take of them." Many centuries later, William Shakespeare rephrased this thought in Hamlet when he wrote: "There (is) nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so."

The fact is, we have tremendous control over our emotions and are not helpless stimulus-response creatures who are powerless over our moods.

• Simply recognizing that thinking influences emotions is a very important step on the road leading to a happier and healthier life.

Negative thoughts can be challenged and changed. This, in turn, leads to more positive feelings and emotions.

Copyright by Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D.

PS Check out some of our other postings to learn more about this concept, such as "How to Achieve Greater Mental Balance," and "What to Say When You Talk to Yourself."

About the Authors

Arnold Lazarus

Arnold A. Lazarus is a professor of psychology, therapist, author, lecturer, and clinical innovator.

Donna Astor-Lazarus

Donna Astor-Lazarus is the Co-Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute.

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