What you think is what you feel (WUTIWUF)

An important component of positive psychology is recognising how our thoughts affect how we feel and in turn what we believe about ourselves and the world that we live in. The diagram below helps us understand how process feeds into the other.

It is important for us to realise that these negative thoughts and the amount of attention that we give to them cause them to grow in intensity. The brilliant thing though is that this process is reversible and we can change our beliefs by challenging them. If we interrupt the negative self-talk, start being kinder with our thinking or distracting ourselves, our thoughts, feelings and beliefs will also change over time and become psychologically healthier.

As staff it is important that we recognise that our thoughts, feelings and belief cycle can lead to positive and negative behaviours. Any young people who are presenting with challenging behaviours are likely to have an undercurrent of negative thoughts that drive their negative behaviour choices. By engaging in positive dialogue with a young person even when they are being difficult can divert the negative thought cycle which is currently hijacking their cognitions.

Little actions that can help in a big way:

  • See negative behaviour as a mirror to the young person’s perceptions of either themselves or the situation. This knowledge can help us to respond with compassion even in the most extreme situations
  • When a young person is behaving in a way that is inappropriate make it very clear what you are wanting from them and why. However it is also hugely important to remind them that you see them as better than the
    behaviour that they are presenting, children with emotional and behavioural issues need to be reminded that your expectations are high of them not low
  • Challenge negative thinking whenever you hear it. Young people can make progress from insight alone. By helping our pupils understand the process we can guide them to a journey of self-discovery and autonomy
  • If young people appear to be engaging in negative self-talk then suggest that they distract that thinking or reduce the amount of time they spend engaging with it
  • Recommend that young people engage in a positive self-talk dialogue in order to off-set the negativity


Next time: The importance of being in the present = mindfulness.