Did you ever give a thought at your thoughts? We mostly tend to have thoughts that are really useless and unhelpful, which often become uncontrollable.

What are unhelpful thoughts? How a thought can occur judging it to be helpful or unhelpful? Is it easy to control thoughts? Wait, wait… Isn’t it too much of a thought now?

Well, now let’s take a journey on how thoughts occur and how to identify them as helpful or unhelpful.

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How do such thoughts occur?

Any thought usually springs from our past experiences and belief system.  We tend to get both helpful and unhelpful thoughts, while it’s these unhelpful thoughts that do a lot of damage to our mental well-being. Thinking affects our mood, anxiety and stress levels. The unhelpful thoughts are the faulty ways of thinking that reinforce negative thoughts or emotions. Just going through these unhelpful thoughts, makes our mood dull and feel life so gloomy. Therefore, it is highly important to remember that these are just thoughts but not facts and they don’t have any real basis to exist.

It is most often observed that, though we are physically busy doing some work, our mind wanders and picks up some silly reasons to worry about. Now this interest in picking up only worrying thoughts could be out of some reasons like self-pity, over-self concern or something else. At times, we can also observe that just a thought of self patting could result in heavy pride and a thought about other’s progress could end you up in envying others. All these negative thoughts could alter our character if encouraged. They take a toll on our mental peace.

Identifying Unhelpful Thoughts

Unrealistic thoughts that raise stress and tension can be identified as Unhelpful thoughts. These thoughts are mostly irrational. Let’s go through some examples.

Tunnel Vision

This is viewing only a particular part of the whole thing while ignoring the other areas. In this view, you tend to see the negatives and neglect all the positive aspects. Making a hill out of mole, such negative things which have a very little scope of existence might visible as great obstacles in your path.

Reading minds

This is another major problem we most often come across. Many of us try to jump to conclusions what others are thinking about us. In most cases, taking our assumptions as granted, we move on to the next step as a reaction. But unfortunately much of it has come out of our perception and our imagination itself.

A person who has guilt in his mind, mistakes someone for laughing as if he is making fun of him. But the truth could be that he never knew what guilt that person feels about and he might laugh for something else.

Black and White thinking

Some people see everything as a complete extreme end. Either positive or negative, either Black or White, but there’s almost no grey for them. Any situation or thought should have a middle ground, especially when it’s an assumption. Such extreme thoughts increase the stress levels making the thoughts and the situation equally worse.

A best example of this type of thinking is when a person thinks that he is fit for nothing, after getting rejected for a few jobs or getting failed in exams. “I couldn’t clear the entrance exam. I’m of no use” says a student when depressed. It is commonly found in people who are not so good at persistence and who don’t have any patience.

Personalization

People having low levels of self confidence are the victims of this personalization. They continuously have a habit of lowering themselves giving high priorities to others. Having this in mind, whenever something bad or unexpected happens, it makes them feel that they are responsible for everything. They start feeling guilty thinking it was their fault.

Such thoughts include, “Alas! They met with an accident in the evening. It must be because they have seen my face early in the morning after getting up.” or like, “They couldn’t have a great day as I got up late. It was entirely my fault.”

Compare and Despair

Many of the young people have this problem of comparing themselves with others. It’s okay if they feel equal enough. But most of the times, they see the negatives in them in comparison with the others.

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For example, a well-settled employee thinks, “Many of my friends are being able to afford a new building and a new car. But I’m still at this foreign place managing responsibilities and using the car and house provided by office. How fortunate they are!!” Such people don’t get satisfied with their blessings. Comparing with others they choose to be despaired.

Predictions

Some people somehow feel that they knew something disastrous would happen. How funny is it to catastrophize something which never happened? It always happens how it should be. But the prediction guys won’t let a chance slip through their minds. In the circle of getting ready for the unexpected, they throw themselves into a pit of unwanted mental disturbance.

For example, “What if no one talks to me when I attend that party?” or “What if someone blames for wasting money and time if I post my holiday pics on facebook?” etc. are such thoughts where the thinking goes to some unwanted level.

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Emotional Reasons

Sometimes we just feel bad without any reason. But many of them interpret this as a signal that something bad is going to happen. This need not be the case always. Thoughts are automatic brain reflexes and feelings are just a reaction of those thoughts. In the cumulative reaction of all these, such unnecessary thoughts keep on increasing which could lead to severe stress.

Judging

It is often found that people make judgments about events, others, themselves or the situations rather than based on what they actually see or have evidence for. They even won’t try to draw any logical reasons. Having prejudice also plays a big role in these unhelpful thoughts.

Memories

The most upsetting or the cherishing things are memories. We need to ruminate on the pleasant memories we had and keep our mind afresh. Clinging on to those hurting old memories will always make you ponder deep about why it happened that way and why not like some other way. This makes you gloomy, considering yourself unlucky all the while.

This unhelpful thinking about memories of the past makes some people worried much that the danger or mishap is happening right there and now, but not in the past. Such thinking makes the person anxious and stressful. One should keep in mind that the past is gone and dead.

Help your mind to think better!!

The Unhelpful thoughts spring from the unhelpful emotions we already have in mind such as anxiety, anger, anguish, fear, stress, depression etc. Once we are able to identify our unhelpful thoughts, we can then learn to tackle them and so, challenge them.  Majority of your thoughts would be opinions based on past experiences.

The following questions would be very helpful in challenging your unhelpful thoughts.

For example, when questioned about those anxious unhelpful thoughts, the answers could be like this.

  • Is there any evidence which contradicts your thoughts?

Though I feel much of the time that I would collapse while the plane is landing, that never happened. I’ve always done well to control my anxiety. I know that these symptoms are of flight/flight and they are not dangerous.

  • What are the pros and cons of thinking in this way?

Pros: Can’t really thinking of any

Cons: It really makes me feel sick

  • Will this matter to you in 1 year time?

It might sound a little funny, when I probably look back later.

  • Is there any other way of looking at this situation?

I’ve done pretty well in similar situations. Even if something goes wrong, I am sure that there would be medical help available to take care of me. I should be okay.

With this, it obviously feels that these thoughts are not worthy of your time. In that case, what to do?

Feed the Right thought

Think positive to be positive. To know how positive thoughts influence us, let’s just consider an instance.

Two boys were climbing a tree, when their parents approached to see them. When the wind suddenly blew, the father of a boy loudly said, “Son! Hold the branch tight” while the father of another boy shouted, “Idiot! Don’t fall down”. Eventually, the second boy fell to the ground. Looking at the worried father, the other man said, “Their minds catch the words which we speak. Spread positive thoughts.”

It is always obvious that our thoughts are the food of our mind. Feed positivity.

Seek the right help

To help you come out of these unnecessary unhelpful thoughts, consult the right psychologists and know how to lead a happier life. It is always true that every person deserves a happier and tension-free life.

 


Prof. Madhu Kosuri

I have completed 30 years of teaching and research in psychology at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India.

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