Ever ask yourself the question, "What am I thinking and how does it effect me?" If you haven't asked yourself that question then I would invite you to do so right now. The reason for my suggestion to begin this self observation is that your thoughts are very powerful and have a great impact on the quality of your life. As a psychologist I have come to believe that your thoughts play a very large part in not only what you think but also what you feel. Consider the possibility that every thought you entertain in your mind has an emotion attached to it. That is pretty obvious when you consider that for example looking at a photo of a loved one will often bring a smile to your face because you experience some form of a positive emotion (ie. joy, happiness, calm, euphoria).
Have you ever played with dominoes as a child? Did you ever set them up on their ends in rows and topple the first domino just to watch the one next to it fall and cause a chain reaction in a line up of dominoes? If so then you can imagine that your thoughts are the first domino in a line of dominoes, set up vertically, in a row. The domino next to thought would be your emotion; so in many cases what you are feeling emotionally is the result of what you are thinking about.
The next domino in the chain would be your behavior. In other words, behavior is an outward expression of your thoughts that trigger a feeling or emotions, that is the source of your movement or behavior.
The next and final domino in the chain would be your physiology or bodily functions. That is to say the way your body feels (tense or calm) and the way it functions (pleasantly or in pain).
In effect then your thoughts are the prime controller of your emotions which, taken together, control your behavior, and ultimately effect your health.
If I have a client who comes to therapy complaining of anxiety or depression one of the first topics we will discuss after their assessment is the subject of their thought life. Often clients are unaware of what they have been thinking about and how strongly it effects them. If, for example, they are thinking about how inadequate or unattractive they are then they will find themselves emotionally responding to these thoughts will very negative emotions of anxiety and/or depression. Many clients have a very negative view of themselves and have done so for years without ever being aware of how toxic such a habit is their their emotional and physical well-being.
To demonstrate this to yourself you may wish to try a small experiment. I am going to invite you to make a list of your four best moments in your life. Take your time and think about that subject. You may list the day you got married, or the day your had your first child, or the day you achieved something that you worked very hard to accomplish. After you have made your list find a comfortable and quiet time to just look over your list and think about one of these events. Close your eyes and really let yourself go back in time and remember all the details of the event. What did you see? What did you hear? What did you smell or touch or taste that made this moment so memorable? Also remember what you were thinking and feeling about yourself at that moment. Were you thinking, "This is great! I am so proud of myself for accomplishing this!" Perhaps you were thinking, "I am so lucky to be here and to be alive." Whatever your thoughts are notice how strongly they trigger your emotions.
You can do this experiment on a regular basis to practice controlling your thoughts, calming your emotions with positive feelings, and giving yourself a brief mental vacation when you want to reboot your attitude. Your attitude is really a combination of your thoughts and feelings.
I'd like to share a message from Rev. Charles Stanley about attitudes. He stated in one of his famous sermons, "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is we have choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude....I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes."