The connection between thought and behaviour has been studied for centuries. The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle established that everything that happens, good or bad, has a cause. He believed that everything has a cause and that all behaviour is related to thoughts.
In the 1960s a psychiatrist called Albert Ellis proposed that thoughts are a by-product of behaviour and that we are all born with a set of automatic thoughts (i.e. “I’m worthless”, or “I’m not good enough”). Ellis believed that these thoughts are the ‘scripts’ that have been built into our minds and affect our emotions.
Many people have worked on the effects of thoughts on behaviour. The most accepted theory is that of the psychologist David Burns. He states that thoughts are what we choose to focus on, the more you focus on an unwanted thought, the more powerful it becomes and the more you feel you want to act on it.
This gives weight to the idea that how we think affects how we feel and how we behave.
Sometimes people behave in ways that are not helpful to themselves or others. For example, when a person uses alcohol to become drunk to deal with their negative thought processes, they feel worthless or insecure. There is more at play for these individuals than just changing the way they think.
Dr Alan Watkins gives a fantastic TEDx talk called “ Being brilliant every single day”, where he talks about the link between our behavioural thoughts and feelings. Dr Watkins explains that behaviour is an outward reaction to an inward reflection of our thoughts and feelings. He demonstrates how thoughts affect thinking and our thinking affects our thoughts in a continuous cycle.
For a behaviour to change dramatically and have any kind of lasting impact, a person needs to change the way they feel internally. Feelings are affected by our raw emotions that are actually the response to our bodies physiological response within the body.