Imagine if thoughts were emails

We all have far more thoughts in a day than we can pay attention to. Many people have more emails in a day than they can pay attention to as well!

But are you filtering out ‘junk’ thoughts in the way that your emails are filtered?

Or are you being drawn in by the subject header reading ‘what if’, ‘you should have’ or ‘you’re not good enough’  as if it was ‘special offer just for you’?

And maybe some helpful thoughts are mistakenly finding themselves in your junk folder.


Recognising junk thoughts

We all have ‘junk thoughts’ and some of them are probably pretty obvious but we all tend to have some junk thoughts we mistakenly treat as if they are high priority.

Here are a few styles of junk thoughts:


Self criticism

The priority mistake: believing that being hard on yourself will help you to do better next time or can motivate you in some way.

Why it should go into your junk folder: would you say mean things to someone else to motivate them to do better? What would you say instead? If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, it is probably junk.



The priority mistake: believing you know what someone else is thinking about you. For example ‘she must think I’m stupid’.

Why it should go into your junk folder: you can’t read minds!  Is there any evidence that supports your assumption? Are there any other alternative ways other people could be thinking?



The priority mistake: believing that you can prepare yourself by worrying or thinking about the worst case scenario.

Why it should go into your junk folder: thinking about worst case scenarios activates your body’s fight & flight response. Are you really better prepared when you have spent a lot of time and energy worrying, feeling anxious, not sleeping, or eating properly and thinking about terrible outcomes? Have there been times you didn’t worry about something but coped well with a problem?


Not junk?

As well as paying too much attebntion to junk thoughts, there may be helpful thoughts mistakenly going straight into your junk folder.


Filtering Out Positives

Junk mistakes: believing that if you let yourself accept compliments/positive feedback/ you will become arrogant. Believing that if you allow yourself to be confident or happy, you will have further to fall if something goes wrong. Believing that if you feel happy, you will lose motivation to move forward.

Why it should be marked as ‘not junk’: our thoughts and our emotions are closely linked. If we only allow ourselves to notice negative thoughts, we will feel… well, negative. It is more helpful to recognise positive and realistic thoughts to gain a balanced perspective and take helpful actions.

As for the beliefs above, if you don’t want to be arrogant, you won’t be!

If you are happy or confident, it can help you to bounce back more quickly and easily after a ‘fall’.

Motivation to gain something good is different from motivation to escape something bad. You can feel good and still be motivated to do well and to move forward and it feels a lot nicer than feeling bad and being motivated just to escape the awfulness!



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Image Credit: Pixabay



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I am a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and EMDR therapist, mum of 2 awesome children and founder of Lemon Squeezy Wellbeing! I offer wellbeing workshops and guided relaxation sessions to workplaces in Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees.

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