Emotions and your thoughts

woman's faceWhat you think about has an effect on your emotions. And fortunately we have some degree of choice about what we think about. This is largely the basis of the Metta Bhavana practice — we encourage the conscious development of thoughts (such as “May I be well”) that will give rise to positive emotions, rather than those that will reinforce negative emotions.

Thoughts and feelings are deeply intertwined. I truly believe that everything we think has some effect on how we feel. Every image that passes through our minds, every half-formed sentence that trickles through our consciousness, has some small, unnoticed consequence in our emotional life. Our emotions will be affected even if we aren’t aware — and usually we are not.

It’s therefore essential that we learn to cultivate more mindfulness, both so that we can become more sensitive to the connections between our thoughts and our emotions, but also so that we can choose which thoughts we will encourage or discourage.

As we begin to pay more attention to our thinking and feeling, we start to see how often we indulge in thoughts that make us unhappy by generating anxiety, ill will, feelings of impotence, etc.

Each time we decide to let go of a thought that we know to be unhelpful we make a small change in our habitual way of being and feeling. The change is small, but we can make thousands of such changes every day.

These thousands of small changes, over time, create a huge change in our emotional life. Watch the stories you tell yourself. And ask, are they helpful? If they’re not, then change them.

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