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Challenging Unhelpful Thoughts


New thoughts do not have to be falsely positive (wishful thinking), but realistic thoughts. The bottom line is to aim for calmness, less anger and/or less anxiety. Shifting in emotion might be enough to produce a more helpful and productive behaviour. So as to work out the new thoughts, it is useful to ask yourself the following questions in an attempt to help you find the realistic thinking needed to change the bad feelings or reduce their intensity, aiming to ensure that your new thinking is realistic, helpful and flexible. Ready? Here are the questions:

  • Where is the evidence for what I thought?
  • What are the alternatives to what I thought?
  • What is the likely effect on me of thinking this way?
  • How would I advise a friend to think in the same situation?
  • How would someone advise me?

You can start challenging your unhelpful thoughts by selecting simple situations as opposed to major events. Choose an occasion when you felt a negative emotion and remember that the situation is just the trigger, not the cause, of your negative emotion.

Challenging your thinking is a skill that should be practiced regularly. Being able to identify and change unhelpful thoughts provides everyone in relationships with an opportunity to do something about the way they feel. This is really good news, as being able to think clearly and accurately is necessary for making decisions and problem solving. Remember, we are not saying that it’s possible to think positively about a dreadful situation. But we are saying that it is possible to think in a more realistic way, and this will allow you to consider the options which could help the situation.” (“Side by Side. How to think differently about your relationship” – Jo Lamble & Sue Morris)

Good luck practising! 🙂 It is not easy, but it is not impossible either. 😉

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