What are you thinking?

How you think can affect how you feel. If you have negative thoughts you can feel sad or anxious, and if you have positive thoughts you can feel happy and motivated. Often you are not aware of what you are thinking. A thought could flash across your mind and you aren’t aware you even had the thought until you started to feel something.

Feelings of worry or anxiety can come from ‘unhelpful’ or ‘faulty’ thinking. We all have unhelpful ways of thinking, but it is when they start to interfere with daily life that they become a problem.

In the table below you will see six unhelpful ways of thinking. Read the different unhelpful ways of thinking and then choose the ones you think you might do (either sometimes or often). Then when you next feel worried or anxious you can try and identify which unhelpful way of thinking contributed to your worry or anxiety, and try to challenge it.

Unhelpful way of thinking

What this means

Do you do this?

(think about those that apply to you)

All or nothing

Thinking is black or white, good or bad. In doing this you forget there is often a grey area where there is a bit of good and a bit of bad.


Negative focus

You focus on all the things that are wrong and forget about any positives, or any of your strengths.


Having rigid rules that you live by

Your thoughts have words like “should” “can't” and “must” in them. For example, “I should do this or I will feel guilty”.



The worst possible thing will happen. You focus on how awful and unpleasant something is, that it is sure to end in disaster.


Jumping to conclusions

This is when you think you know what will happen – and it is bad. You try and predict the future and read people’s minds.



When you think something bad has happened or it has actually happened, you think you are to blame – it is your fault.


Created on 30/08/2013 | Updated on 10/12/2015
References for this page

Not sure? Use our quick self assessment tool to check.

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