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Behavioural Experiments

We all have beliefs about the way the world works - and beliefs about other people. Those beliefs may be right or wrong - just as they may be helpful or unhelpful. We are all biased in the way we think - http://www.wakeywakeytv.com/post/thoughts-outsmart-your-brain.

It's hard to just decide to think differently - and as we've said before - thinking can be a nightmare - getting us into all sorts of trouble. Sometimes, a better way to feel differently is to try out behavioural experiments.

The best way to discover if we are right or wrong is to set ourselves behavioural experiments. We learn by doing. Think of them as scientific experiments to test a hypothesis. 

What kind of experiments can I do to challenge some thought that might be in error?

I’m glad you asked. Here are some examples - in each case we identify the unhelpful belief and challenge it with an experiment:

  • Think of something you are dreading. What is the belief that makes you dread it? Set up an experiment to test whether what you thought would happen actually happens. e.g. if you strike up a conversation with someone they will ignore you or think you are annoying. Make it achievable. e.g. hello to someone in a coffee shop or at the till in a shop. Write down how you feel about the belief afterwards.

  • Think of something you really want to do but there is some belief stopping you. Set up an experiment to test whether what you thought would happen actually happens. e.g. I want to go for a run but people will stare at me in my gym gear. Make it achievable e.g. run when there are fewer people around so you don't feel so self-conscious the first time. Write down how you feel about the belief afterwards.

  • Think of some belief you have about yourself/your situation - something not so great.  Some examples below:

  •  Belief: "I'm too tired after work to do x." Try something different on successive days. See how you feel after you do x anyway and when you don't do x. Write down how you feel about the belief afterwards.

  • Belief: "My friend won't want to hear from me." Here the experiment is to call your friend and test the belief. Write down how you feel about the belief afterwards.

  • Belief: “There's no point in drawing/singing etc. I'm no good at it. Here the experiment  is to do it and record how you feel afterwards. 

  • Belief: "If I say “no” my friend won't like me” or “If I don't do everything perfectly and satisfy everyone at all times no one will like me". Here the experiment  may be to say no kindly and assertively and record what happens. Start small.

Remember we often can’t think our way out of most ways of feeling and being. We learn by doing. In each case - start small and try different approaches. Make the first experiment something small and achievable - and work your way up from there. 

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