thought - feeling - action

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What comes first; actions, thoughts or feelings? Most people believe that feelings drive thoughts and then actions.

FEELINGS → THOUGHTS → ACTIONS

It seems that way because feelings are intense, and likely the first thing we are aware of. In fact, thoughts are what drive our feelings.

THOUGHTS → FEELINGS → ACTIONS

Thoughts happen in a split second, so we are not generally consciously aware of them. Learning to catch those thoughts before they develop into feelings is a challenging but vital tool for helping us control our feelings, rather than letting our feelings control us. It takes a lot of practice and persistence, but over time, it is possible to develop a strong awareness of, and to start to filter out a lot of the unhelpful negative self talk.

Imagine having both a self doubt monster and a personal coach on your shoulders, whispering into your ears. As we already know, we are hardwired to pay more attention to the negative thoughts. Below are a couple of situations that could easily produce negative thoughts and feelings in tweens…

“I volunteer an answer in class that I think is really clever but it is wrong and people laugh.”

OR

“I ask to go out with me, and they say no. I hear giggles from their friend.”

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THOUGHT

“I’m an idiot and I wish I had just kept my mouth shut”

FEELING

  • embarrassed, dumb

ACTION

  • disengagement, not willing to take that risk again

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Catching self talk is really hard at first, because it happens so quickly. It is usually easier to begin by thinking about the last time you had a strong emotion (positive or negative) and ‘walk it back;

What did I say to myself that led to that feeling? What else could I have said to myself that might have altered that feeling?

Try playing out the above scenario with a more optimistic thought; Think of this as the inner coach on your shoulder cheering you on.

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THOUGHT

“OK that didn’t work out the way I hoped, but it isn’t that big a deal. People giggling doesn’t mean they are laughing at me. Nothing ventured nothing gained. I am stronger than this and THIS happens to everyone sometimes.”

FEELING

  • hopeful, determined, resolute

ACTION

  • willing to try again

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  • Regularly ask kids to think/write down the last strong emotion they remember.
    • Ask them to see if they remember what led to the feeling (exterior trigger).
    • Ask them to remember what they said to themselves in response to that trigger.
    • If they could go back, what are more optimistic thoughts that may have reduced the negative feeling.
    • IMPORTANT QUESTIONS to help kids shift the negative self talk:
      • Is my response logical/rational?
      • Am I exaggerating the importance of the situation?
      • Is this a last chance, or a one of many opportunities?

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