Just like when we're feeling a certain way, we tend to have thoughts that are congruent with the way that we're feeling. And then those thoughts feed back into how we're feeling, making those feelings even stronger.
The same sort of relationship exists between how we're feeling and our behavior and how we act. For example, if we're feeling sad or depressed, we tend not to want to do much of anything, we can find it hard to get out of bed, or drag ourselves to work or make plans with our friends. And we can want to withdraw from the world and just avoid doing things. Maybe just lie in bed all day, or on the couch, or sit in front of the TV doing nothing.
And although when we're feeling sad, this can be exactly what we want to do, or feel like we need to do.
Acting in this way doesn't do anything to help our mood, or make us feel any less sad, and tends to actually intensify the way that we're already feeling, creating one of those vicious cycles that we've talked about so much.
One way we can combat this tendency is called opposite action, the idea that when we feel a certain way, we tend to act in ways that are congruent with how we're feeling. And this has the effect of intensifying those feelings. But if instead, we take opposite action, and act opposite to how our feelings are telling us to act, this helps moderate our emotions, slows down any vicious cycles, and allows our feelings to subside.
And so by changing the way we act, we can change the way we feel. Just like how changing the way we think can change the way we feel. And so that was an example of using opposite action to help manage sadness or depression.
Now we're going to look at how you can use opposite action to help with anxiety, stress and anger.
When we're feeling anxious, our tendency is to want to act in ways that allow us to avoid whatever it is we're anxious about.
But this doesn't work, because the more we avoid something, the more anxiety it tends to cause us.
So instead, we need to take opposite action, act opposite to the way our feelings are telling us to act in this situation.
Rather than avoid what's making us anxious, find a way to face our fears and expose ourselves at least gradually to whatever it is that's causing our anxiety. And when we do this, we start to feel more comfortable with whatever was making us anxious.
As a result, our anxiety starts to decrease.
And if we're feeling stressed, what we tend to want to do is to work harder, rush around to multitask and keep going and going until we get everything done. So we can finally relax.
But acting in this way only makes us more stressed.
But if instead of acting based on what our stress is telling us to do, we take opposite action. Slow down a bit, be more mindful, take some breaks and give ourselves some time to relax and unwind. Not only with our level of stress decrease, but will be more productive in the long run, and get things done quicker and be more efficient.
When we're feeling angry, usually what we want to do is attack and fight back. But that only escalates situations and tends to leave us even more angry. Or we withdraw into ourselves and avoid talking about things which just leaves us ruminating and stewing in our heads and getting angry or by the minute, often until we can't take it anymore and explode.
But if instead of acting based on what our anger is telling us to do, and instead of attacking, we take opposite action, take a step back and remove ourselves from the situation if we can, we're usually able to calm ourselves and our anger starts to dissipate. Or if instead of staying silent and stewing about something, we take opposite action and find a way to express what's bothering us assertively rather than angrily, we're often able to resolve situations and let go of our anger. And so if instead of acting based on what our emotions are telling us to do, which tends to feed back into how we're feeling, and making those feelings even stronger, we take opposite action, act opposite to the urge that we're having at the time.
And take a moment to plan what we're going to do, we can start to reverse any vicious cycles or downward spirals, calm our emotions, and our mood will start to improve. And in the next video, we'll learn an effective way to use opposite action to help manage depression, called behavioral activation. And the stop exercise is a great way to initiate opposite action.
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