When you opened the curtains this morning did you think:
‘It’s a lovely day!’ or ‘it’s a miserable day’?
Or did you think:
‘The sun is shining and the sky is blue’ or ‘it is raining and the sky is grey’?
I’m guessing it was something more along the lines of the former than the latter.
As we go through our day, most of what we think probably feels factual.
On the whole, people treat most of their thoughts as though they are facts most of the time. Often this isn’t really a problem. After all, life would be pretty dull if we didn’t have opinions and preferences.
Sometimes though, it can be useful to check in with your thoughts and notice that many of them are actually opinions rather than facts.
Our thoughts impact on how we feel emotionally, and on how we behave. If you have a negative thought and treat it as though it is a fact, it is likely you will feel an emotion that matches up with that thought and then behave accordingly.
Imaging how you would feel if you had the following thoughts and believed them to be 100% true facts:
‘I’m not good enough’
‘Everyone is laughing at me’
‘I’m socially awkward’
‘I am a disappointment’
‘My work is rubbish’
‘I’m a bad parent’
Then imagine how you would behave if you believed these thoughts to be true.
In actual fact, all of the above statements are opinions. Someone else could take a completely different view and at a different point in time, so could you.
To get an idea of how many of our thoughts are opinions rather than facts, take a look at the picture below and list all the thoughts that automatically come into your mind about the picture.
How many adjectives did you use?
How many judgements (positive or negative)?
How many statements of fact did you make?
When is a fact not a fact?
For the little experiment above, it was probably pretty clear which thoughts were factual and which were opinions. It can be a little more tricky when we encounter social facts.
Take the example of someone who just won 3m on the lottery.
Most people would think ‘they’re rich!’ and think of that as a fact.
However, those on the Forbes rich list would probably disagree.
When it is an opinion, there is an alternative…
To return to our negative thoughts, if we can identify these as opinions rather than facts, this means that there is an alternative. Maybe there is a more helpful alternative.
Sometimes, just acknowledging the thought is not a fact can be enough to change the emotion we feel and what we do as a result.
It also gives us a bit of distance from our thoughts and for those of you who like mindfulness, this is similar to taking an observer perspective as you would in mindfulness practice.
What’s more, re-stating something in a factual way can sometimes help you to gain a more balanced perspective.
Please feel free to leave your opinions in the comments!
You may also like: Stress: Is It All In Your Head?
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Image Credit: Pixabay