Without even realizing it, we engage in internal conversations with ourselves throughout the day. For instance, when you last looked in the mirror, what was the first thing you said to yourself? If the things you said were complimentary, then great. But perhaps the thoughts you had were not so kind? That would be an example of “stinking thinking”—unhelpful, unkind, negative self-talk. This is the kind of thinking that can hold you back and restrict opportunities.
We all have hundreds of thousands of thoughts every day, and how we process those thoughts relates directly to the way we behave and deal with emotional problems. Negative and unrealistic thoughts can cause us distress and, when we suffer with psychological distress, the way in which we interpret situations becomes skewed—which in turn has a negative impact on the actions we take.
I think it’s worth looking at the model that sits behind cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), because it helps us to understand why and how our thinking affects our behavior and how stinking thinking can be so destructive to the quality of our lives.
Your thoughts will impact your mood; if you wake up dreading work, you might have a low mood. If you have a low mood, it will affect your behavior—you may go quiet or slam doors. Your thinking, mood, and behavior will all result in some kind of physical reaction—maybe headaches, tight neck muscles, or increased heart rate?
The interaction between your thoughts, mood, behavior, and physical reaction is in a constant cycle—each impacts the other. If it’s negative, it can spiral you down into a dark place. Stinking thinking is dangerous, unproductive, and unhelpful.
The good news, though, is that you can kick off a very positive emotional and physical state by replacing stinking thinking with optimistic, kind, and useful thoughts. The secret is to catch your negative thoughts; write them down, then write down an alternative thought that would be positive and helpful. With optimistic thoughts going through your mind, your mood will lift, your behavior will change for the better, and your body will be more relaxed.
Be very careful what runs through your head, because negative, stinking thinking will affect the quality of your life and what you are able to achieve. But you can turn it all around in seconds. It does take daily—even hourly—practice, but you will experience a happier and more enjoyable life when you flush away that stinking thinking.