Page updated and reviewed by Dr Elaine Ryan on 4 June 2021
Regardless of whether it is good or bad, whatever you are mentally rehearsing, can become your reality!
What you think, you become – what do I mean by this?
It’s all about mental rehearsal, for the point of explanation, try to think of this as practising a skill. For example, if you were learning to play the cello, unless you were some sort of child prodigy, you probably didn’t sound too good the first time you picked it up.
It took practice. Many hours, many years to become good.
What happens when you practice?
Connections are made in your brain. The more you practice, the stronger these connections become, until they run automatically. To go back to the cello example, if you practised every day for many years, you have strong connections in your brain each time you pick it up.
The interesting thing is, this can happen from mental rehearsal as well. Even going over playing the cello in your mind, can help to strengthen these connections, which means (put very simply) connections are made through your thought processes!
What sort of things do you go over in your mind on a daily basis?
This is an important question, as whether you like it or not, it is like a mental rehearsal, and connections are being made in your brain.
Do you ‘mentally rehearse’ any of the following?
- I can’t do this
- I’m going to fail
- I’m not good enough
- I’m stupid
- I’m useless
The points above are what we call core beliefs in CBT
If you do, you are mentally rehearsing this in your brain. Making connections. Making it easier for you brain to jump to these phrases each time you start something new, or are presented with a task. Think of it like building a muscle, only it is one that you don’t want!
I wanted to write this today to get you thinking about what goes on inside your head, and hopefully to help you to move from things that are unhelpful.
If you catch yourself going over things in your head that are not good for you. Label it as ‘mental rehearsal’ as this will remind you that you are unintentionally practising something that you do not want to acquire.
Your brain will want to pull you back into the thought, as you might have already formed a strong connection in your mind; a habit, so to speak. Don’t fight it, just be aware of it, and try to bring your attention to what is real.
When I say real, I mean, what is going on around you. For example, if you catch yourself mentally rehearsing ‘I’m a failure’ while you are in work. Bring your attention to what is going on around you. What is in the room, who is in the room. Stick with concrete facts, not your interpretation of what is going on. That means, pay attention to the people, furniture, noise, not ‘I’m messing up in front of people’ as that is your interpretation and is probably not correct!
Change your script – practice something more helpful
You can take it a step further and replace the unhelpful script in your head with a more helpful one.
- I’m doing okay
- I’m good enough
- I’m smart enough
Mentally rehearse only the thoughts that are going to help you!