Feelings can change if I change

No more brooding: How do I change my thinking habits?

When it makes sense to get rid of routines

The phone rings, three new emails pop up, a colleague comes in and puts a folder with other tasks on the table: There are a lot of things to do and an important report has to be written. The deadline for the submission is getting closer and closer. How does the boss react if I don't hand in on time? What happens if the result is not good enough for him? - It is such thoughts that put many people under pressure and cause stress.

In addition to stress, nervousness, test anxiety and stage fright are among the thinking and feeling habits that quickly become annoying and make everyday life difficult. With the right strategy, however, we can get rid of thought patterns such as "I can't do it" or "I'm not good enough".

At the latest when thoughts develop into an obsession to ruminate, depression or anxiety disorders, it is time to act. But even those who just want to deal better with stress are worth learning the right strategies to convert negative thought patterns into positive ones.

Analyze the habit

"Anyone who wants to change a habit should analyze it first," says Verplanken. For example, anyone who aims to reduce stress should pay close attention to the situations in which they are stressed. It is a search for so-called "triggers", that is, triggering stimuli: This can be an approaching deadline or simply several work orders at the same time.

Especially in stressful situations, the brain switches to autopilot and falls into the tried and tested pattern of "fight or flee". The reaction that ensured the survival of our ancestors is mostly superfluous today.

To turn off the emergency program in our head, we should stop for a moment and ask ourselves why we are reacting this way. What are the emotions behind it? Is it the fear of not getting a job done? Is it nervous about an upcoming presentation? As soon as we know why the stress reaction is occurring and we have found the trigger, we are no longer at the mercy of it.

A plan helps to set goals in concrete terms

If you want to change the routine, the next step should be to draw up a plan. It is important to be as specific as possible. This is difficult, especially when it comes to thinking and feeling habits. Stress reactions, for example, cannot be completely avoided. For this we can select certain situations. Example: "I'm not so stressed before deadlines".

We have a higher chance of success if we formulate the goal positively, that is: "I am relaxed even before the submission deadline ends". We should also note all the benefits that this goal brings us. For example, I no longer react irritably and am friendlier to my colleagues and still have energy in the evening to do something with friends. We should visualize these advantages precisely.

We should also set a specific period by when we would like to achieve the goal. Experts advise actually writing down the plan and, for example, hanging it up in a clearly visible place at the workplace. In addition, we should tell as many colleagues and friends as possible about our project. Or even better: we bring in a colleague who participates and gives us additional motivation.

If you want to get an additional check, you can sign a contract with yourself on the website "www.stickk.com". If the goal is missed, the site automatically donates a predetermined amount to an association or institution that you cannot stand.

Successful with if-then plans

Despite plans and support, most people find it difficult to persevere. "It is easier to replace one habit with another instead of getting rid of it," says social psychologist Verplanken. Peter Gollwitzer, professor at New York University has developed the so-called "if-then plans" strategy for this purpose.

Concrete instructions for action are specified in the process. For example: "If I get stressed at work, I take three deep breaths" or "... I go into the kitchen and get a glass of water". Gollwitzer and other psychologists were able to prove in their studies that people with if-then plans were more successful than test subjects who only set a goal.