Mental health update – You Are What You Think!

We have all heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’, implying that food fuels our body and the various types, quality, and quantity of food can impact our body, how we feel and therefore how we perform.

When we talk about our mental health and wellbeing, we refer to it as encompassing all aspects of our emotional, psychological and social wellbeing, so basically our mental health impacts how we think, act and feel.

Just like we have a level of control or choice over the types of food/fuel we put into our bodies, there is also the capacity for us to influence our thoughts and behaviours which in turn impacts how we feel about ourselves and the world we live in.

As humans, we can often be very reactive and are driven by our emotions. Of course, how we react is individual and influenced by numerous factors that have conditioned us over our life journey (nature vs nurture) such as genetics, social, cultural, family influences, childhood experiences, as well as individual personality and behavioural types. However, as humans we also have the propensity for holding onto the negative more often than we do the positive.

In working with blokes in regional, rural and remote WA, and from my own personal life experiences, I have seen the fallout of unhelpful and negative thoughts people develop, carry and manifest during times of situational distress and poor mental health.

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is one effective approach for managing and treating a range of mental and emotional health issues. While this article is not a comprehensive overview of CBT, I would like to home in on one of its aims, which is to identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts.

CBT is more than just being positive, as I recently observed with someone experiencing a range of debilitating physical health issues; it was this exact phrase that one day triggered a negative emotional outburst: “The next person who tells me to stay positive, I’ll tell them to get stuffed,” they screamed.

Their experience was firstly needing validation, as the obvious pain and distress experienced was warranted, but it was the unhelpful thinking and negative self-talk exacerbating feelings of despair, frustration and isolation that also needed to be addressed.

Common lines such as: “I’ll never get better,” “I feel useless,” “no one cares or understands how I feel” and “bad things always happen to me,” are examples of some of the documented unhelpful thinking patterns CBT aims to address, including:

  • Over-generalisation: You see a single negative as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Personalisation: Seeing yourself as the cause of negative events, no fault of your own.
  • All or Nothing Thinking: You only see things in black and white; if your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as failing.
  • Disqualifying the Positive: You reject or don’t see positives experiences. You insist they don’t count to maintain a negative belief that is often contradicted by your experience.

If some of this resonates, check out some endorsed self-help apps, like Moodgym or HeadGear. Both use CBT concepts to create awareness and challenge negative thinking patterns.

Always remember, before it gets too much Talk to a Mate®!!, or talk it over.

You can find more here.