What Comes First, The Thought Or The Emotion?


What Comes First, The Thought Or The Emotion?

This is a chicken/egg situation!

It is a bit of a divided opinion, one that I do not have a definite answer to, but I believe that once the thought/emotion pattern starts then the two feed off each other and can spiral out of control.

This is why it is so important to recognise our thoughts and emotions and acknowledge them. Once we start to do this we can take control instead of allowing them to control us.

Our minds have a very clever way of deceiving us. They make up stories and have us believing that this is the absolute truth, when in reality it just isn’t.

This is called Cognitive Distortion. There are 10 main cognitive distortions and in this blog I will talk about two of them and how I have learnt to take control of my own thoughts and emotions.

You may recognise these in yourself (I certainly did), but by noticing and acknowledging we can start to change.

1. Overgeneralization - So what is this exactly?

Well it’s a thought pattern that allows one event or series of events to determine a rule which a person applies to everything.

A couple of examples of this might be:

  • After a failed relationship a person may think they will never find love.
  • After a terrible speech a person may think they are no good at public speaking and never do it again.

We then start to feed these thoughts by telling ourselves and everyone around us that we are no good at this or no good at that and it becomes our truth.

If instead we look at the event as a one off and tell ourselves that next time will be different (which it will), we can find the positives in the situation, move on quicker and not feel as affected.

By recognising this thought pattern we can stay in control of the situation and our emotions.


2. Personalisation - So what is this exactly?

This is when a person believes that their or someone else's actions could entirely influence a situation that is, in reality, out of any one person's control.

An example of this might be:

  • Blaming oneself for not doing more to ensure the happiness and wellbeing of another person.

Instead of being ruled by our thoughts and emotions, or suppressing them out of fear, mindfulness offers a way of welcoming them, without judgement.


So this is just two out of ten main cognitive distortions! It can be hard to know where to start, right? How do we stop our minds from doing what they have always done?

Well first of all we have to recognise what is happening. This is a massive step towards improving your mental wellbeing.

Practising mindfulness is the best way to start to recognise these distortions.

You can practise mindfulness in several ways.

  1. Meditation - Practise mindful meditation. After a while you will notice it start to become part of your thought patterns and, in time, you will find there is no boundary between sitting in formal meditation and your life.
  2. Keep a thought diary - write down your thoughts and what emotions are triggered. Get everything out on to paper. If your thought was negative write down a more helpful thought to replace it with next time and focus on what emotion this might trigger instead.
  3. Naming and interrogating - Name the emotion that you are feeling, what triggered it? How did you respond? How would you like to respond in the future?

These simple acts allow us to start to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings. Once we can do this we can start to change.

Here are a few tips to help you start to incorporate mindful activities into your daily routine.

  1. Start small - Even 5 minutes a day is beneficial. Make sure the target is realistic for you.
  2. Use a trigger - Attaching meditation or journaling to something we already do each day is a great way to embed it into our routine. This could be; an alarm going off, getting on the bus or train, waiting for your tea to brew, washing the dishes.
  3. Accountability - This can make us 7 times more likely to stick to something new!
  • Share your intentions with a friend or family member.
  • Get a meditation tracker or app on your phone. I can personally recommend Waking Up by Sam Harris

I hope this blog helps you start to implement some positive changes to you daily routine.

If you are struggling with sleep you can get a copy of my free guide to a deep and restful nights sleep - you can find it here

I would also recommend joining my free Facebook group which is perfect for giving you daily reminders and positivity boosts during your day.

Lots of love

Fiona xx

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