Tackling Negative Thoughts

“….take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:5

Have you ever heard the phrase “You are what you eat?”  Basically, it means that what we feed our bodies affects how we feel and our overall physical health. If you eat junk food all the time, you’re going to feel like “junk.” The same goes for your mind.  What we think vastly affects how we feel about ourselves, the world around us and even how we view God.

One of the hallmarks of depression, especially for teens, is negative self-talk.  Self-talk is, what it sounds like; how you talk to yourself.  Most people are actually quite unaware of how they talk to themselves.  When I work with teens, who are experiencing depression, I have them start paying attention to the way they are thinking.  Often times what they come up with is a pattern of negative thinking about themselves and their situation.

In counseling, there is a special way of treating depression that is called CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  The backbone of CBT is recognizing negative thinking patterns.  CBT looks at thoughts, how they affect our feelings, what we do because of those feelings and the ultimate consequence of that behavior. What is found is that when we have negative thoughts, they cause negative feelings which cause us to act in negative, self-defeating ways with bad consequences…and the whole cycle starts again.  If we can change these thoughts we can change our feelings, behaviors and have better outcomes that leave us feeling better.

What I work on in counseling with teens is to help them identify the reality of the situation vs. the perception that they have. We need to take the negative thoughts we have “everyone hates me,” “I’m stupid,” evaluate the evidence for them, (Everyone hates me? Really? Everyone? Your parents? God?) and turn them into more reality-based thoughts,  i.e. “Sometimes people get upset at me, but not all the time,” “Sometimes I make mistakes, but other times I get good grades.” This, in turn, changes how we feel about ourselves, which leads to more positive actions and consequences.

Coincidentally (or not) the Bible has something to say about this very same subject. Paul was way ahead of the curve (at least in psychology) when he told his followers to “take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” Paul was essentially telling his followers to take their false thoughts and turn them towards the truth of Christ.  This is basically the same concept that we tackle in counseling!

Next time you find yourself feeling down, take a minute to check your thoughts and write them down.  Are they helpful? Are they true? If not, point your mind towards the truth of the situation and craft a new thought to match what the truth is. It’s not easy, but with practice you can change how you view your world and how you feel drastically.

Next Steps:

What are your thoughts? Comment below

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