Thoughts affect your actions

Thoughts affect your actions

Thoughts are internal speech directed at ourselves. Our mind is constantly filled with thoughts – tens of thousands of them in a single day! Single thoughts often only flash through our mind without us paying much attention to them.

However, frequently recurring thoughts have a strong impact on the way you act and behave in different situations. If you have negative thoughts of yourself, such as ‘I never get anything right’, you will also start to behave in a belittling manner towards yourself. You will make choices based on the assumption that you cannot succeed.

Frequently recurring thoughts have a strong impact on the way you act and behave in different situations.

To identify the effect that your thoughts have on your actions, you must stop and listen to yourself. Identifying your thoughts is worth it because it provides you with the opportunity to work with them. Additionally, you will become better at identifying what is real and what is merely your own interpretation.

What kinds of thoughts?

Thoughts can really be about anything. We can also do lots of different things with our thoughts. These include the following:

  • Motivating ourselves
  • Demoralising ourselves
  • Stating things
  • Planning things in advance
  • Dwelling on the past
  • Dreaming

Positive, constructive and useful thoughts improve our mood, encourage us and make us act.
“Even though things are really bad right now, at least I’m trying to do something about it.”
“Even though I screwed up now, it can help me learn something for the future.”
“This day was tough but I made it through it.”
These kinds of thoughts help us see more possibilities, and obstacles do not seem impossible to overcome.

Negative, destructive or useless thoughts often make us feel bad and bring our mood down. They also discourage us and make challenges seem harder.
“I don’t know anything even though I’ve already studied for so long.”
“Everything’s getting worse.”
“I never get anything done.”

When reading through the examples, did you observe any difference in how the positive and negative thoughts affected you? If you give too much space and value to your destructive thoughts, they will start to affect your actions. The same applies the other way round too: when you pay attention to positive thoughts, their effect becomes stronger.

If you give too much space and value to your destructive thoughts, they will start to affect your actions.

Do harmful thought patterns guide your actions?

Sometimes we get stuck to the same recurring negative thought patterns that discourage us and make us feel bad. Harmful thoughts patterns can guide the way you observe things, act and make choices without you even noticing it.
For this reason, you should try to recognise recurring thought patterns you have that:

  • Prevent you from being yourself
  • Prevent you from utilising all your skills and abilities
  • Lower your self-esteem.

Below, we have some examples of harmful thought patterns.

Negative internal speech
  • You think negatively of yourself and of things and other people in relation to yourself.
  • You criticise, invalidate and diminish things.
  • You make negative generalisations.
  • You use words and phrases such as: always, all, all the time, never, ever, every time and nothing.
Reading thoughts
  • You think you know what others think of you.
  • You think others know what you wish for, want or expect.
Blaming yourself
  • You think that unpleasant and negative things happen and that they are always entirely your fault.

Question your established thought patterns

By learning to question your thought patterns and finding different perspectives, you are able to decrease the effect of harmful thoughts on your actions. This does not mean you should entirely avoid negative thoughts – there is a time and place for them too. However, you should stop and think about your own established thought patterns – how do you usually talk to yourself and what do you think of yourself?

When you consciously work on your own internal speech, you are able to change it little by little to become more encouraging, tolerant and contributing to your wellbeing.

You should stop and think about your own established thought patterns – how do you usually talk to yourself and what do you think of yourself?

Ways to work on your thought patterns

You can practice changing your thoughts for the positive with different techniques. Here are a few examples.

Spur yourself on!

You can act as your own coach and give yourself guidance, encouragement, thanks and support. If this feels hard at first, you can try to imagine what you would say to a friend who is in a similar situation as you.

Reward and thank yourself

Thanks and support give you strength – and you should thank yourself too! Recognise your own accomplishments and give yourself credit. The courage to try and test things deserves thanks too, and this way, resting and relaxing become activities that are worth a reward: ‘Thankfully I listened to myself and allowed myself a break!’

Change ‘should’ into ‘want’!

You might find new perspective to things by changing your ‘shoulds’ to ‘want tos’ and ‘cans’. Do you really have to act in the way you have always acted or could you act as you really want to? You might discover what you really want to do or notice things that are not really necessary or even possible.

Techniques for altering your thoughts

We have now presented you some holistic methods for influencing your thoughts. In addition to them, there are also some individual methods you can test when working on your thoughts. Try them out, practice them and find the ones that work for you.

Worrying break

During a worrying break, you should do nothing else than focus on the issue troubling your mind. Choose a peaceful spot and spend 10 minutes there, letting the thoughts that cause you to worry freely enter your mind. Do nothing else. If you feel like you can focus your thoughts on the problem and solving it, do so.

At other times during the day you can interrupt distressing thoughts by telling yourself that you will only return to them during your worrying break.

List of good things

You can reinforce positive thinking by making a list of everything that is good about you and everything that is sufficiently well in your life. Read the list every day and come up with more positive things to add to it. You will learn to remember that you have good qualities and that many things in life are decent. Thinking of nice things every day will also train your brain to produce more positive thoughts.

Interrupting your thoughts

Sometimes you can get stuck in a cluster of negative thoughts. This burdens you and makes you feel bad. Learn to stop the sequence of disturbing thoughts. One way of doing this is to sternly say ‘stop’ in your mind and then to purposefully focus on whatever concrete thing you are doing or to go outdoors to exercise, for instance.
If you feel overcome by disturbing thoughts, just tell yourself: ‘This makes me feel bad. I want to think of something else!’ You can also write down the thought and think about it later (see worrying break).

Worst that could happen

Think of the worst possible thing that could happen if your fear comes true. You might be worried about not finishing a study assignment in time, and this worry disrupts your actions. However, the worst that could happen is that your assignment looks unfinished and you receive a bad grade. After a few years, you will not even remember the whole thing. Do not use this method for worries that might have serious consequences.

Moving forward in time

Sometimes you encounter times or situations that seem difficult. It often helps to imagine a future time when things are okay. You might have encountered difficulties earlier in your life and made it through them. When you focus your thoughts on a better time in the future, you can get the strength to make it through the current difficult situation.

Food for thought:
  • What kinds of thoughts do you have of yourself and your life?
  • Do you recognise when your own thoughts make you feel bad?
  • Do you give enough space for different interpretations of things?
  • What methods do you use to get rid of thought patterns that cause you anguish?