Our emotions are always mediated by some form of cognition or thinking. And often the cognition that’s mediating our emotions is this narrative self-talk we all have playing in the background.
Okay, thoughts mediate emotions… So what?
If our thoughts determine how we feel, that means how we habitually think will determine how we habitually feel.
Let that sink in for a minute because it’s arguably one of the most important ideas in all of psychology.
The practical implication is that if we want to change how we feel, we must learn how to change how we think.
Specifically, we need to learn how to identify and examine our habits of thinking and talking to ourselves if we want to feel better on a regular basis.
Of course, there’s more to human suffering and mental health than our habits of talking to ourselves. But our mental habits are an enormous and often overlooked piece of the pie. They also happen to be something we all have direct control over (unlike certain aspects of our environment or our genetic code).
Which is why I usually sum up my job by saying that I help people identify and unlearn problematic mental habits.
Or maybe better: I help people tell themselves a different story about themselves.
But before we can start telling news stories, we have to get rid of the old ones…