Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling distressed or anxious about something, only to find a few weeks later that it was a non-event? Or maybe you chatted about it with a mate and felt much better afterwards? While you may not be aware of it, your experience establishes an extremely significant principle: Changing the way you think will change the way you feel.


Every day, every minute, every second of the day, we are all continuously thinking about and deciphering the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is as if we have a little voice in our head that influences how we see every life event. Psychologists refer to this inner voice as our ‘self-talk’, and it comprises both our conscious thoughts as well as our unconscious expectations or attitudes.

Most of our self-talk is sensible (for example, ‘I had better go to bed as I have to get up early, or ‘I am really looking forward to that party). Nonetheless, some of our self-talk is negative, unhelpful or self-defeating (for example ‘I am never going to pass that test, or ‘I really stuffed up that speech— I’m useless).


Negative self-talk often triggers bad feelings, and often leads us to feel to experience distressing emotions such as anger, hurt, fear, frustration, depression or anxiety. In addition, it can lead us to behave in a self-destructive ways. For example, thoughts such as ‘I am going to stuff up for sure’ may dissuade you from studying when you are preparing for a test..


The manner in which we interpret incidents in our lives has a huge impression on the way we feel and behave. The association between our thoughts, feelings and behaviours can be best described by understanding what psychologists refer to as the ABC of self-talk. Here is an example

Activating situation — the circumstance itself, or the triggering event that occurred when you began to feel uncomfortable, like when you get told off by your boss.

Beliefs — our self-talk (thoughts, views, judgements) and assumptions that we make about what has transpired  – ‘I am going to get fired, I’ll never get a promotion now.’

Consequences (our feelings and behaviours) – feeling worried, frightened, you tense up and as a result you go to the pub and get drunk.


When things are looking bleak, the Family Peace Foundation encourage you to evaluate your own ABC and confront your beliefs about the activating situation. Have a go! There are a number of smartphone apps like Mind Shift or Mood Kit to help you challenge these negative thoughts that use the ABC technique.


You can cultivate this ability even more with the backing of a good psychologist.  Search for a psychologist in your area. Find over 8,000 psychologists Australia wide, who are in private practice and provide services for a fee, telephone 1800 333 497 outside Melbourne or  log on to:

managing negative thoughts