By Danielle King, MA, NCC, LPC, EMDR Trained Therapist. The Mental Wellness Center
We tend to not be the best at identifying our true feelings. When asked about our feelings, most people will usually say they feel: bad, sad, mad, good, or fine. But underneath “good, bad, sad, mad, or fine” are many words that better describe how we feel.
Taking the time to slow down and identify what we are really experiencing can help us feel better and can improve our communication and relationships with others.
Once you identify what you’re really feeling, it might give you insight into how to ask for what you need. For example: I feel mad. But what I’m really feeling is vulnerable, unworthy, or unsafe. After being able to properly identify your underlying emotions and feelings, it then allows us to properly communicate to our support system what we need from them in order to get the most support.
If I stopped at mad, I might not be able to find out how to really address the negative things I’m feeling. When you’re going through something difficult, it’s hard to think positively. If you’re already feeling depressed or anxious, it’s even harder! You might have a hard time noticing anything good about the situation, or about your life.
Unfortunately, that puts you on track for a downward spiral. Thinking positively not only feels better than thinking negatively, but it also helps you find ways to improve your situation! Of course, it’s easier said than done. Here are some quick steps you can take to start reframing those negative thoughts to become a more adaptive belief:
1. Identify what’s going on. What’s making you feel bad right now? Maybe it’s a situation, or a negative thought you keep struggling with.
2. Reframe. Even though the situation is hard, is there something you have learned from it or some other silver lining? If you could go back and change the original thought, what’s a healthier thing you can say to yourself? For instance, if you did not get the job you were hoping for, can you view it as a sign that it was not the right path for you and better opportunities are ahead?
3. Practice gratitude. Are there other things going on in your life that you are thankful for? This doesn’t have to be related to the situation you’re focusing on. For instance, you can be thankful for your good health, having a stable home to live in, or a recent promotion at work. This does not mean to ignore or bottle up the negative situation, but how shifting your focus can help to view the negative situation with a clearer head. I know there are times I let small negative situations ruin my whole day or attitude, so we should be allowed to let a small positive make our whole day as well.
4. Once you’ve found some positives, remind yourself! How can you reinforce your reframed thoughts and remind yourself of what you are thankful for? Make a list of ways. For example, put them onto post-it notes and stick them in places around your house as visual reminders. Or even download a gratitude app to help you keep track of these positives wherever you go.
Of course, counseling is a place to work out those struggles that seem too big to face on your own. And counselors gain great satisfaction from hearing about the good things that you have experienced since the last session.
For more information or help with any issues that you may be struggling with, contact The Mental Wellness Center, Inc. at 309-807-5077 or info@TheMentalWellnessCenter.com. Their offices are located at 205 N. Williamsburg Drive, Suite A in Bloomington and 405 N. Kays Drive, Suite A in Normal. They are invested in helping you return to or achieve—possibly for the first time ever—a state of complete mental wellness.