Our thoughts greatly affect our mental health. The practice of certain thinking habits and resistance to change originate our reality. There is a reality outside of us, and we don’t really interact with it. The only reality we really live with is a simulation created by our brain through our thoughts, and which may or may not come close to the external one.
In theory, the less distorted our thoughts are, the closer we get to the truth. The problem arises when we have been brought up with generalizations, prejudices and dichotomies that distance us from it. Thinking is like breathing, we do it without realizing it, but we can’t believe everything we think. It is estimated that only about 20% of our thoughts materialize.
Human beings have thoughts that do not correspond to the reality of the present moment. These thoughts are called distorted or irrational thoughts. These are ideas that come to our mind and that prevent us from seeing the true reality of things; they lead us to make mistakes and this greatly affects our emotional state.
It is the interpretations of reality, and not itself, that make us emotionally stable or unstable. What we think about ourselves and our experience is what really causes us anxiety and / or depression problems, predominant in the first world, and not the situation itself. Two people faced with the same situation can experience it and understand it differently, proving that reality is, after all, a creation of our thoughts.
If you want to change, change your thoughts
Psychology bases part of its therapies on replacing irrational thoughts with others that are better suited to real facts. Learning to transform irrational thoughts into rational ones is the cornerstone of thinking adapted to reality. People who are able to change these thoughts can have great control over their emotions and be able to make better decisions.
One of the most used clinical techniques to change unsuitable thoughts is the debate, with which the patient is shown how to change their beliefs through questions formulated according to rational parameters, until they become capable of generating a much more adaptive alternative thinking. The ultimate goal of the patient is to be able to replace or refine their thoughts on their own.
As complex as the circumstances, such as a layoff or a breakup may be, they do not improve despite our best efforts. In many difficult situations, our range of activity involves more action on our thoughts than on reality itself.
How to think in a healthy and rational way?
The events do not cause emotional and behavioral problems, which are instead caused by the beliefs generated by the interpretation of the problems. One of the basic aspects to underline is the distinction between rational beliefs and irrational beliefs.
Thinking rationally means thinking relativizing, expressing oneself in terms of desires and tastes (I would like, I would prefer, I would like …). When people think healthily, even when they don’t get what they want, the negative feelings generated by these situations do not prevent them from reaching new goals or resolutions.
Thinking in a dogmatic and absolutist way, on the other hand, leads us to express ourselves in terms of obligation, necessity or requirement (I must, I am obliged). Failure causes inappropriate negative emotions (depression, guilt, anger, anxiety, fear) that interfere with the achievement of goals and generate behavioral alterations such as isolation, the tendency to avoid or flee, and the abuse of toxic substances.