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The Cycle (Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviors)

The Cycle (Thoughts, Feelings, Behaviors)

Have you ever tried to just - change how you were feeling? Maybe a situation made you feel sad, which was unpleasant, so you tried to just be happy? Pretty tough, right? Emotion regulation skills actually require us to consider more than just our feelings. Our thoughts that precede emotions, as well as the behaviors that result from them, play a critical role in this process. Often, it can be more feasible to change those thoughts or behaviors than it would be to simply will ourselves into feeling a different emotion. Luckily, changing the way we think, or even how we behave, can actually lead to a change in our emotional state.

This cycle (Thoughts → Feelings → Behaviors) is a foundational element of an evidence-based and highly popular mental health treatment approach called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Understanding this cycle can be empowering to all individuals. Check out the videos and resources below to learn more!

Video: Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors (3:14) 

Don't believe everything you think. Not all thoughts are accurate, or helpful.

Learn More: 

Understanding the Thoughts - Feelings - Behaviors Connection

Helping Students Connect the Dots: Thoughts, Feelings, & Behaviors

Call to Action: 

Consider: How can your awareness of the Thoughts → Feelings → Behaviors cycle change the way you care for yourself and/or your loved ones?

Practice: Take some time to reflect on something that is currently causing you stress, or that recently caused you stress. Journal, or think about, the following prompts:

  1. Identify the emotion(s) you experienced or are experiencing related to this.
  2. What are some thoughts that precede those feelings?
    • Are there any unhelpful thoughts you are engaging in? Is there another, more helpful way to think about this situation?
  3. What are you (or aren’t you) doing in response to these thoughts and feelings?
    • Are there any unhelpful, or unproductive, behaviors that you might be engaging in? Are there any other, perhaps better, things you can do?
  4. How does reflecting on The Cycle [thoughts - feelings - behaviors] benefit you?

Next week’s Spotlight will focus on how we can see parenting through the lens of this month’s content. Be on the lookout for it!