Thinking is a central part of our existence. It affects how we make decisions and what actions we take. Therefore it is possible that some of the problems we face could be a consequence of how we think.
Thinking about thinking
Taking some time to reflect on our actions and decisions in response to difficult situations in our lives is a good opportunity to consider the reasons behind our thinking. Have we acted because of certain prejudices we have or because we feel negatively about the situation? Are we behaving in a certain way because we expect negative consequences?
Train yourself to think differently
“how to help an entrepreneur whose scuba-diving company was facing bankruptcy because sharks had infested the area […] (turn this into) his unique selling point”[i]
In ‘The Art of Creative Thinking’, Rod Judkins considers how thinking differently and creatively can turn a problem into a solution. The case of the scuba-diving entrepreneur is an extreme example of how considering a problem from a different perspective could help find a solution. In this case, the scuba-diving company focused its efforts on attracting customers who want to dive with sharks!
When faced with a situation we expect to be stressful we can often react with anger or anxiety. If we start to question our reactions, and develop a more positive mind-set we can create new perspectives for ourselves. If we learn to think differently, we can learn to act differently. This is a huge task for those of us living with mental health difficulties where our thoughts are challenging our existence and awareness. However, if we can create time to consider how our thoughts may be affecting our decisions and actions, at least when we are living with our most challenging thoughts we can start to be aware that they are just that – thoughts.
The power you give your thoughts are through the decisions you make and the actions you take. Deciding to venture out on the journey to recovery and wellbeing is about how we live with our long-term mental and physical health challenges. Part of the strategy of thinking differently is to give ourselves more opportunity either to solve or to sidestep our problems. Fear of failure can stop us from achieving our goals, and the negative thoughts brought on by fear can be crippling. If we make progress our goal, and not perfection we can start to move forward and learn to manage our difficulties and face challenges that may lie ahead.
Use your supporters
“Jaws on a spaceship,” That was all Ridley Scott said when he pitched the film Alien to producers at 20th Century Fox.[ii]
Challenging our thoughts and thinking differently is a long-term approach on the journey to recovery and wellbeing. When making a decision to react to a situation differently, use your family, friends and supporters to back you up. If you think an idea that someone else is using may work for you why not use the support of your friends and family to help you make this change. It is often hard to explain to others that you want to try something new to you, but if you can explain your change in terms that they are already familiar with then it might be easier to get them onboard. Like Jaws… on a spaceship(!)
“I’m going to start walking for half an hour in the morning because I’ve heard exercise can help reduce feelings of anger/depression.”
“I’m going to cut down on my drinking because it’s affecting my work.”
Alternatively you could decide you are not going to get drawn into family arguments, or that you are going to practice mindfulness for a few minutes each day. Having a supporter who can ask you how your progress is going or even work with you, can help you make thinking differently a habit.
Find out more
If you are interested in thinking differently, we have a one-day workshop at the Recovery College ‘Thinking Differently About Things,’ which is an introductory course that looks at identifying and understanding thoughts that can impact negatively on the things you want to do in life. It also considers ways to challenge our thinking and offers skills and techniques that may help you to do, think and feel about things in a way that is more positive.
Our next term begins in January 2017. If you are interested in any of our courses, please contact the college on 0115 956 0827 for further information and details on how to enrol, or you can enrol using one of our online forms.
Please let us know if you have found that thinking differently about things works for you in the comments below, we would love to hear your thoughts.
[i] Judkins, R. The Art of Creative Thinking
[ii] Judkins, R. The Art of Creative Thinking