Psychology experts says that thoughts, feelings and behaviors are a mind-body continuum that arise within us and constantly affect each other. Due to unknowns and lack of acceptance of our realities we fall into beliefs and develop cognitive biases because of which our world view becomes distorted.
Thoughts are sound vibrations arising in our mind and passing away. It is the identification with our thoughts that creates resistance and difficulty. If we stay away from judging our thoughts or labeling them as "I" or "mine" the thoughts just pass away. Otherwise we keep creating worry cycles by bringing up the same thoughts up again and again until we find relief. Similarly feelings are just vibrations or sensations that arise in our body and our mind becomes aware of them as soon as they arise. Just like our thoughts, we label the feelings as "good" or "bad" creating unnecessary hurdles for ourselves. Thoughts are just thoughts and feelings are just feelings. All we need to do is to be aware of them objectively.
When we associate too much with thoughts and feelings especially the ones that are worrisome- our behaviors get affected. We start believing too much in them, we start forming identities associated with them and eventually react in social interactions out of feelings of fear, sadness, worry. Once our speech and actions are affected we give opportunities to others to react and this forms a vicious cycle. We react to a situation and others get affected and then others react and we get affected. We need to learn to come out of these cycles of suffering.
Distorted world views manifest as mental afflictions keeping our mind away from the present, in a constant flux for cravings or aversions- we are mostly either ruminating about the past or craving for the future thus feeding the negative thought and feeling cycles that keeping us blind from our present realities. True happiness comes from living in the present moment- but most of us do not know how to live like that. We are either worried about a future moment- whether it is a work meeting, exams, future success- our ambitions, etc or think about events happened in the past refreshing that memory again and again to feel happy or sad.
How to be in the present has been taught in various schools and one of the techniques used to achieve a present mind is through concentration practices. Concentration practices focus on a meditation object like observing the flame of a candle, feeling centered at our heart, being aware of our breath or focusing at a point in space or looking inward concentrating on an imagined image of a deity. All such practices help the mind become mindful of the present moment and help us achieve acceptance and happiness.
There are many types of erroneous thinking patterns that emerge if we let beliefs and biases feed our minds- Catastrophic thinking, All or None thinking, Overgeneralization, Personalization, Judgmental thinking, labelling, emotional reasoning, discounting positives and jumping to conclusions. Thinking with such mindsets without any objective observation give rise to disease and disorders.
Jumping to Conclusions: Sometimes we do mind reading and try to guess or predict what the other person is thinking, interpret and jump to conclusions. With a fearful mind we are mostly making incorrect predictions like "She does not like me", "He does not want to talk to me" etc that are unhelpful.
Personalization: This involves blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong or could go wrong, even when you may only be partly responsible or not responsible at all like "I am the cause of this whole mess" etc.
Catastrophizing: When we “blow things out of proportion“., and we view the situation as terrible, awful, dreadful, and horrible, even though the reality is very different and barely harmful in any way. For example a Math student thinks he or she will fail in the exams when she is unable to do a problem correctly.
Black & White Thinking: This thinking style involves seeing only one extreme or the other. You are either wrong or right, good or bad and so on.
Overgeneralization or exaggeration: When we overgeneralize, we take one instance in the past or present, and impose it on all current or future situations. If we say “You always…” or “Everyone…”, or “I never…” then we are probably overgeneralizing.
Labelling: We label ourselves and others and make general statements like "She is bad" or "He is good" although it is only true that some intentions or actions of these people may have been positive or fruitful which were observed by you.
Emotional Reasoning: This type of thinking involves basing your view of situations or yourself on the way you are feeling. You may be feeling unwell due to your ill health but now you incorrectly apply this feeling to some other result- like "Since I am not feeling well it means tomorrow is going to go bad".
Magnification and Minimization: You magnify the positive attributes of other people and minimize your own positive attributes.
The motivation behind human behavior is best explained by Maslow's hierarchy which is based on needs. It says that in order to achieve happiness our basic and essential needs must be met- physiological needs, safety needs, the need for love and belonging, the need for self-esteem and self-actualization in that order. The first 4 needs are said to be deficiency needs and the last one is a growth need. Deficiency needs arise due to deprivation. Once they are fulfilled, the person begins to work towards self-growth and development and find happiness in self-actualization. Maslow described this as a normal flow or process for all beings.
Physical wellness impacts mental wellness significantly. It is true that mind affects the body and body affects the mind. A feeling of pain in the body for example affects our moods easily. Long term pain or neglected physical unwellness can actually contribute to conditions like fibromyalgia or mental illnesses like depression or stress disorders. We should not discount physical discomfort and consider it as separate from mind. There are many ways of strengthening our physical self- yoga, exercise, walking, running, sports as well as nutrition.
Compassion plays an important role in recovery from mental illness. We should seek help from our near and dear ones as early as possible if we are feeling low or alone or dejected. Feelings of warmth and support impact emotional wellbeing significantly and also strengthen self-esteem. Just like food, clothing and shelter, love and belonging are strong human needs that need to be addressed immediately.
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