The 9th – 15th of November marks national psychology week in Australia. The initiative aims to increase public awareness of how psychology can help people and communities lead healthier, happier and more meaningful lives.
Have you ever examined the way your thinking affects your health and happiness?
Exploring our cognitions (including all that goes on in our heads, such as thoughts, images, words, memories, fantasies and daydreams) is an effective pathway to understanding intensely negative emotions such as depression, anxiety and anger. Our emotions are the product of a complex interaction between the way we think, how we behave and the physiological (or chemical) processes that go on automatically in our body, including the foods we eat.
Events, or the things that happen around us, also have an effect on the way we feel. However, our thoughts or interpretation of any event is the primary influence on the way we feel rather than the event itself. The way we feel and behave in response to certain events is very much determined by the meaning placed on the experience. Everyone has unique interpretations of particular events, based on previous personal experiences and therefore each person will have their own unique reaction to an event, and even different reactions to the same event at different times.
For example, seeing a colleague receive flowers from a partner can make you feel sad if you associate flowers with the recent passing of a loved one, or happy if they remind you of the last time you received flowers for your birthday, or angry if they remind you of an ex who tried to win back your love after hurting you in some way. Each of these emotional reactions demonstrates that the same object can have many different meanings to even the same person depending on what’s going on at this cognitive level. Each of these examples also teaches us that we have the ability to adopt flexible thinking in relation to things that happen around us.
How can Psychologists help?
Psychologists are experts in human behaviour, having studied the brain, memory, learning, human development and the processes determining how people think, feel, behave and react. Psychologists apply their expertise using reliable and scientifically supported methods to assist you to achieve your health and wellness goals.
With relation to thinking, Psychologists are trained to help you explore and understand the influence of your thinking patterns on your emotional state and behavioural choices. Psychologists are also trained to help you develop flexible thinking, rather than being trapped by unhelpful thinking patterns such as all-or-nothing thinking (‘I am always late’, ‘he is never nice to me’, ‘pizza is always bad’, ‘things never go my way’).