Darlene Egelhoff
(970) 209-9086
503 6th St, Crested Butte 81224

Thoughts are Not Reality: Think about What You’re Thinking About

You cannot have a happy life with negative thoughts. Every thought we have creates a chemical release in our brain which, in turn, produces an emotion. Our emotions effect our choices and actions. If you are feeling sad, depressed, angry, or anxious, it is likely due to what you have been thinking about. We cannot be responsible for our first thought, but we need to be responsible for out second thought. We do that by cultivating awareness of our thoughts. We cannot change that of which we are not aware. Negative thoughts can release brain chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline which make us physically emotional, enraged, anxious, fearful, and jealous. Positive thoughts release chemicals like serotonin and endorphins which allow us to feel happy, loved, and peaceful. We can change our emotions by changing our thoughts.

It is never the thing, the person, or the event that causes us to be unhappy. It is our perception of those entities. We can experience the same event as others yet we can all have an entirely different perspective. My brothers and I talk about our childhoods at times as if we come from different families. Retelling stories we look confused at each other “Were you even there”? We have learned perspectives and belief systems based on our life experiences including how we were raised, who we hang out with, and what events have happened in our lives. All of these things literally shape the architecture of our brain and contribute to our brain chemistry forming a lens through which we see ourselves and the world. We create expectations and judge ourselves and others based on these beliefs. Some of these are helpful while others are irrational and self-defeating. The great news is we have the power to choose our thoughts. We can choose to view things from a more positive perspective which will in turn cause us to have more empowering thoughts, feel better, and consequently make more helpful, healthy choices. Often we feel an emotion first. We feel anxious, angry, or sad yet we may not know why. Emotions are not good or bad, they are information. Be curious about your emotions. Seek to understand what they are telling you that you need as well as what are the thoughts that contributed to those feelings.

For some of us it is a matter of relearning how to think. The secret to a positive life is to think about what we are thinking about and choose helpful thoughts by reframing our thoughts with an alternative, more positive perspective. The very act of considering another perspective sprouts neural pathways in your brain and physically expands your brain. Ask yourself, “What’s another way I could look at this situation that will lead me to a positive feeling? What’s the good in this situation?” We do this by first becoming aware of our thoughts. First ask yourself, “Is this thought true? If it’s not absolutely true, what is true? What are the facts?” Secondly ask yourself, “Is it helpful?” Our mind never stops thinking. It narrates our life and our every move. The tricky part is that most of our thoughts are unconscious; about 95%. Our unconscious thoughts are automatic and often deeply engrained in our brain called a neural pathway. A neural pathway is simply a thought or habit that has been practiced over a period of time. Similar to a shortcut you may take on a trail regularly. At first it will become a path and eventually it will be so well worn it will create a groove or rut over time. These pathways can be undone as well by not using them. Take an alternate route with your mind, reframe your thought, choose to think differently. Over time your new practiced thoughts will become your new pathway and become your automatic, unconscious thoughts.

Thinking about past hurts, regrets, misfortunes, or mistakes, is only helpful to learn from and move forward. Thinking about the future is important for planning and nice to have things to look forward to and it can also create anxiety and dread. Whatever we focus on gets bigger. What do you want to be bigger in your life? What kind of thoughts do you need to have to achieve to grow that? Cultivate gratitude and positivity. Set your intentions. From the wisdom of Peter Pan, “Think happy thoughts.”

Darlene Egelhoff, LPC, LAC