Changing your thoughts

The way you think, feel and act are all linked and can help you to manage your chronic pain. Learning how to manage your thoughts is a big step in helping you to Be Pain Smart.

The first step to managing your thoughts is starting to know what they are. If you want to learn how to notice your thoughts go to the Noticing thoughts tool.  Try using some Pain and depression thought swaps - these are more helpful thoughts that you can swap for your unhelpful ones. Remember, helpful thoughts allow you to deal better with your problems and to manage your pain. Unhelpful thoughts make you feel worse, get in the way of things and stop you doing what you want to do. When this happens, you can learn ways to handle these thoughts so that they are not controlling you.

There is an interactive relationship between what you think, what you do and how you feel.

There are many ways to manage your thoughts. The two main tools are:

  1. Thought defusion – this is defusing or distancing yourself from your thoughts - the Managing your thoughts tools will teach you more
  2. Changing your thoughts – this is when weigh up the proof you have that the thought is true.

Both tools require lots of practise.

Read the section below to learn how you can change your thoughts to help you manage your pain.

Changing your thoughts

In order to change your thoughts from being unhelpful to helpful, you need to challenge them. Start by thinking of an unhelpful thought you have a lot or a thought that upsets you. It can help to write this thought down, then begin asking yourself the following questions.

  1. What is the proof that this thought is true? What is the proof that this thought is not true? Helpful thinking means weighing up the facts, so think about if there are any facts that you have overlooked and what real proof you have to support this thought. It can help to consider how someone else might see this situation.
  2. Is there another way of thinking about this? Think about the situation, there might be a different way of seeing or viewing what is going on. Is this the only way to think about this?
  3. Will this matter in six months? If not, why? Sometimes it can feel like what is going on right now will affect your whole life, but most of the time this is not true. Ask yourself if you will really care about this in the future, and if it won't matter in the future maybe it is not such a big deal right now as well.
  4. Is this thought helpful? This is the big question! Really think about if this thought will help you to meet your goals. Ask yourself if it will help you to manage your pain or help your recovery.

After you have challenged your thoughts, you then need to make a new more helpful thought.

This has been broken down into steps in the Changing your thoughts guide. Read the example and then have a go yourself in the Changing your thoughts worksheet and learn to Be Pain Smart.

Use the links below to download the files