Thoughts matter Health

How thinking affects your mind and life

“Our entire belief system is formed from a lifetime of experiences and memories. These influence our actions every single day,” says Latha Girish, a clinical psychologist with Westminster Healthcare, in Chennai. She says that our unconscious mind plays an important role in shaping our behaviour and attitude, because it may contain repressed feelings and hidden memories.

“To put it simply, what we think is likely to affect how we act and feel, what we feel influences how we think and what we do, and what we do has an impact on how we think and feel, thereby creating an interdependent relationship,” says Dr Samir Parikh, consultant psychiatrist and director, Department of Mental Health & Behavioral Science, Fortis Healthcare, Delhi.

A lot of the thoughts and beliefs we have are negative in nature. Thought distortions are more common than we imagine. They can be at the root of mental disorders like depression or anxiety. They may also cause relationship trouble. While many of us indulge in what are called cognitive distortions — irrational thought processes — it’s the excessiveness that may, over time, modify our belief systems and attitudes towards ourselves and people around us, says Dr Parikh. Here are a few that people indulge in.

“It is important to begin with identifying our own faulty thought patterns. Once we have established the distortions we commonly use, it becomes easier to tackle them,” says Dr Anjali Chhabria, a psychiatrist at Mind Temple, Mumbai. If you indulge in more than a few, do consult a mental-health professional.

Dichotomous thinking

This is also known as ‘black’ or ‘white’, all or nothing, or extreme thinking. For instance, a person in love may believe that if they don’t marry that very person, life will no longer be worth living.


This is thinking of the worst possible outcome and how it would be a disaster in the future. For example, a person who has a job interview thinks the interview is likely to be a disaster, resulting in them not getting a job.

Emotional reasoning

This is when thinking is driven by emotions. Like the case of an always-suspicious spouse who believes the partner is cheating based on say, the person getting delayed at work.

Should and ought

This is when you set standards of outcomes of behaviour for yourself and for others around you. For instance, ‘I should visit the temple everyday’, or ‘He ought to be sorry for his actions’.

Minimising and maximising

This is when the person thinks every error they make in life is a big error, and when they achieve positive results, they think that these achievements are not good enough.


A person tends to predict negative outcomes in situations.


Putting a fixed global label, typically on oneself, or on others. Calling yourself ‘a liar’, ‘a cheat’, rather than looking at the deed.

Mind reading

When we assume we know what the other person is thinking. For example, when a person yawns, it does not necessarily mean he’s bored; he may be jetlagged.

Ignoring the positive

Filtering out any good things that have happened, or any positive statement someone has made.

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 7:46:20 AM |

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