Do thoughts cause emotions? (5 insights)

This blog post aims to answer the question, “Do thoughts cause emotions?” and explore what thoughts and emotions are and their relationship with each other to help understand the answer. 

Do thoughts cause emotions?

Yes, thoughts do cause emotions. The following are 5 insights into how thoughts cause emotions –

  • Emotions and thoughts have a significant impact on one another. 
  • Emotions and thoughts have a complicated relationship.
  • Emotions, thoughts and actions interact with each other.
  • Your emotions are controlled by your thoughts. 
  • Thoughts have no power in and of themselves. 

These 5 insights into how thoughts cause emotions will be discussed in further detail below after taking a deeper look at what thoughts and emotions mean. 

What are thoughts?

Our ideas, views, and beliefs about ourselves and the world around us are known as thoughts. They include the viewpoints we bring to any scenario or encounter, which colour our perspective (for better, worse, or neutral).

An attitude is an example of a long-lived idea that develops through time when beliefs are repeated and reinforced. While life events, genetics, and education impact our beliefs, we can typically regulate them. To put it another way, you may choose to modify your ideas and attitudes if you are aware of them.

What are emotions?

According to Don Hockenbury and Sandra E. Hockenbury’s book “Discovering Psychology,” an emotion is a three-part psychological state that includes a subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioural or expressive response.

Researchers have attempted to define what emotions are as well as identify and classify the many sorts of emotions. Over time, the descriptions and insights have evolved.

Fear, contempt, anger, surprise, pleasure, and sorrow, according to psychologist Paul Eckman, are six primary emotions that are common throughout civilizations.

Robert Plutchik proposed a new emotion classification system called the “wheel of emotions” in the 1980s. This model highlighted how distinct emotions can be merged or blended in the same manner as primary colours can be used to generate new hues.

Eckman updated his list in 1999 to include embarrassment, enthusiasm, disdain, humiliation, pride, contentment, and amusement, among other fundamental feelings.

Happiness vs. sorrow, anger vs. fear, trust vs. contempt, and surprise vs. anticipation are the eight basic emotional qualities described by Plutchik. These feelings can then be mixed and matched to form new ones (for example, happiness + anticipation Equals excitement).

What are these 5 insights into how thoughts cause emotions?

Emotions and thoughts have a significant impact on one another. 

Worrying about an approaching job interview might generate anxiety, and thoughts can also act as an assessment of that emotion (“this isn’t a realistic fear”). 

Furthermore, how we pay attention to and evaluate our experiences has an impact on how we feel. A person who has a phobia of dogs, for example, is likely hyperaware of the dog across the street and perceives the dog’s approach as menacing, resulting in emotional discomfort. 

A person who considers the dog’s approach to be friendly will have a completely different emotional reaction to the same event.

We have a tendency to assume that emotions are just “part of who we are” and that they cannot be changed. Emotions, on the other hand, have been shown to be adaptable in studies. They may be altered by using –

  • Changing an external circumstance (divorcing an abusive spouse)
  • Taking a different approach (choosing to focus on a more positive aspect of a situation)
  • Taking a fresh look at an issue (the upcoming test is an opportunity for learning, not an assessment of my personal worth).

How we choose to conduct our life has a huge impact on how we feel on a daily basis. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky and other positive experts, your “set point,” or heredity, determines 50% of your happiness, while your surroundings dictate 10%. (finances, health, living situation). 

The remaining 40% is determined by your own deliberate attempts to improve your happiness, implying that you have a significant influence on how you feel.

Certain mental exercises, such as mindfulness or positive thinking, can alter our perceptions of the environment and help us feel more peaceful, resilient, and happy. 

Additional researchers have discovered a number of other beneficial attitudes that may be acquired with practice, including forgiveness, appreciation, and compassion.

Emotions and thoughts have a complicated relationship. 

According to conventional belief, you don’t actually have an emotional reaction unless you’ve had a thought. 

The difficulty with this perspective is that certain occurrences immediately elicit emotional responses without requiring thought. You wouldn’t have to think about being scared if a bear charged through your front door. 

If someone smacks you in the face unexpectedly, you will most likely have an instinctive shock reaction without having to think about it. Of course, in order to feel an emotion, you’d have to notice the bear or the smack. 

You would probably not react if you were in a coma. However, recognising something is not the same as thinking about it.  This type of emotional response can be triggered by a variety of situations in life. 

Even if an incident directly causes an emotional response, any subsequent thoughts might change your emotional response. If you felt you were going to die as the bear rushed through your door, your anxiety level would likely rise, however, if you considered it was a wonderful time to practise your bear survival tactics, you could feel a bit less fearful. 

On the other side, your emotions might occasionally be fueled mostly by your ideas. You can be wounded if someone you know doesn’t say hello to you as you walk down the hall, and you assume this implies the person doesn’t like you. 

If you knew, however, that the person’s husband had recently died, your attitude may be much different. Emotions may affect thoughts, just as thoughts can impact emotions. 

Have you ever been in a bad mood and observed that a lot of the thoughts running through your head were negative or related to little irritations? In this situation, your mood or emotions were most likely driving you to think particular things.

Indeed, depression experts have discovered that negative thought processes are generally mood dependent. This indicates that when someone isn’t depressed, they don’t have the same negative thoughts that they have when depression is present. 

In this example, it appears that a bad mood triggers negative thoughts. And, of course, once the bad thoughts start, the unpleasant mood worsens. It’s crucial to understand the intricate back-and-forth link between emotions and thoughts if you’re attempting to find out how to address thinking habits that cause tension or sorrow in your life. 

Emotions, thoughts and actions interact with each other.

It’s even more crucial to understand how emotions, thoughts, and actions interact. This indicates that you can alter your feelings by altering your actions and thoughts. 

This isn’t to say that all you have to do is think positively or do pleasurable things to address your emotional difficulties; rather, overcoming bad emotions requires gradual and consistent adjustments in your actions and thought habits. 

For example, if you’re sad, treatment may include learning to recognise thought patterns, planning your day and scheduling things that you love and that gives you a feeling of success, and learning to think more flexibly about yourself, the world, and other people. 

Surprisingly, this type of depression treatment, known as Cognitive-Behaviour Therapy (CBT), has a longer-lasting benefit than antidepressant drugs. 

According to some estimates, the risk of recurrence for depression is 60% when patients stop using antidepressants, compared to 29% following CBT. Changing your thoughts and behaviour habits may clearly have a long-term impact on your life.

Every day, we have between 5,000 and 60,000 thoughts. Thoughts, if left unchecked, can lead to a variety of mental, emotional, and physical problems. 

Our thoughts, if left unchecked, may make it difficult to go ahead in life, especially after a big loss. Understanding how ideas operate and how thoughts affect our health and well-being on a daily basis is therefore beneficial.

Your emotions are controlled by your thoughts. 

Know that your ideas are feeding the melancholy, not the other way around when your thoughts appear to be the product of your overwhelming sadness and loss. 

Your ideas cause you to feel, and you then act on that emotion. After that, you’ll have a finished product. Change your thinking, and you’ll notice a difference in your feelings. Your actions will shift as a result, and your outcomes will shift as well.

  • Your ideas do not have to be what they are.
  • Your thoughts are entirely your own creation.
  • Your mood is affected by your thoughts, not the other way around.

Thoughts have no power in and of themselves.

It is only when we actively engage our attention in thoughts that they become real. When we interact with certain thoughts, we begin to feel the feelings that these thoughts have triggered—we enter a new emotional state, which determines how we act.

If you routinely interact with the concept that you’re a failure and give it more attention, you’ll begin to feel useless, disheartened, and maybe sad. You pout, your shoulders drop, and you exude no confidence.

More powerful ideas, on the other hand, will enhance your confidence and so cause a more positive emotional state, which will be reflected in the way your body reacts: standing up straight, cheery, and invigorated.

Everything starts with the thoughts you focus on. Emotions are triggered by thoughts, and their vibrational frequency feeds back into the original thought. And while we continue to focus our mental attention on the initial thought, the feeling is reaffirmed, energising the thinking. 

As a result, we are immersed in a never-ending loop of thinking and feeling.  As a consequence, you may feel pressured, depressed, discouraged, pleased, invigorated, confident, and other emotions.

How you think and feel has a direct impact on how your body reacts, and all three factors affect how you act and what you do. This is the process through which your ideas shape your world. 

You determine who you are and what you experience in life by how you behave and act, and how you conduct and act is simply a construction of how you think, feel, and do.

Conclusion – 

This blog post aimed to answer the question, “Do thoughts cause emotions?” and reviewed what thoughts and emotions are and their relationship with each other to help determine if thoughts cause emotions. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions or comments you may have.

References –

Smith, R.  et al. How Do Emotions Work? (2017, December 22). Retrieved from  https://kids.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/frym.2017.00069#:~:text=Scientists%20have%20discovered%20that%20our,thoughts%20(see%20Figure%201).

Lawson, K. What Are Thoughts & Emotions? (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-are-thoughts-emotions

Thoughts 101: How Thoughts Create Emotions And Stuff. Transformation Academy®. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://transformationacademy.com/2019/10/thoughts-101-how-thoughts-create-emotions-and-stuff/

Do emotions influence thoughts or do thoughts influence emotions? Quora. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.quora.com/Do-emotions-influence-thoughts-or-do-thoughts-influence-emotions

Factsheet 10: How our thoughts govern how we feel. MyGriefAssist. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://www.mygriefassist.com.au/factsheets/factsheet-10-how-our-thoughts-govern-how-we-feel/

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Itani, O. You Are What You Think: How Your Thoughts Create Your Reality. (2020, April 21). Retrieved from  https://www.omaritani.com/blog/what-you-think

Brasil, A. How I Learned the Difference Between Thoughts and Feelings. (2020, November 16). Retrieved from  https://www.tethr.men/content/founders-thoughts-how-i-learned-the-difference-between-thoughts-and-feelings

The Complete Artwork Collection of Mark Xiornik Rozen Pettinelli. (n.d.). Retrieved from  https://cnx.org/contents/2d38d02c-bd45-478a-88df-6881a462f718:bec0829c-d75d-4705-bfba-d4e005811de3

Lagattuta, K. H., Elrod, N. M., & Kramer, H. J. (2016). How do thoughts, emotions, and decisions align? A new way to examine theory of mind during middle childhood and beyond. Journal of experimental child psychology, 149, 116–133. Retrieved from  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4907807/

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