Thinking Yourself Healthy: How to Be Happier by Thinking Healthier

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus

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“I’m actually very pleased that Joe broke off our relationship.  ” None of Elaine’s friends believed her.  It was evident to them that she was really very hurt and puzzled by Joe’s behavior.  By rationalizing, instead of facing the truth, Elaine was preventing herself from learning how to stop repeating the same mistakes

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In the previous segment, we pointed out that thinking is a critically important link in the chain of events that joins together external situations and our emotional responses to them. Remember, events don’t make us mad, sad, glad, or scared; rather it’s our interpretations of the events that lead us to feel mad, sad, glad, or scared.

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There are three basic ways of thinking.  We can think rationally, irrationally, or we can rationalize.  Rational thinkingis based more on objective fact than subjective opinion.  It assists us in survival, helps us in achieving goals, and promotes emotional well-being and relationship success.

Irrational thinkingis not based on reason or objectivity – it tends to undermine emotional well-being, often leads to unnecessary conflict, and at times even threatens survival.

Rationalizationis basically a con job – an attempt to explain away actions or choices with seemingly valid, but actually bogus, justifications.

Although not as unhealthy as pure irrationality, rationalization is no friend of mental health either.

  • Clearly, the healthiest type of thinking is rational thinking.

Unlike irrational beliefs that are almost always based on demanding shoulds and musts, or what are called “categorical imperatives,” rational thought is based on preferences, acceptance, and tolerance.

The bottom line is simple. If you want to make yourself happier and promote better relationships,

  • try to eliminate the shoulds and musts from your thoughts

and replace them with more balanced rational self-talk.  Instead of saying, “I must do X and I must have Y,” say, and really mean, “I’d very much prefer doing X and having Y, but I don’t absolutely have to do or get anything.”

Please keep in mind that rational thinking doesn’t mean unemotional living! On the contrary.

  • Replacing irrational beliefs with rational ones simply reduces negative emotions and simultaneously increases positive feelings.

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Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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