Thoughts lead to feelings and feelings lead to behaviours.

The basic model says that any point in your life can be divided into three basic components: 

  • your emotion — how you are feeling, such as happy, angry, or anxious 
  • your cognitions — the thoughts going through your head 
  • your behaviour — what you're doing 

Each of these components affects the others: what we think about something affects how we feel about it, and that affects our behaviour. 

We can't control our emotions directly, but we can change how we think and behave, which will affect our emotions. By thinking and behaving differently, we can actually feel better. This has powerful implications for people with depression and anxiety.

Two examples of how thoughts affect feelings, which in turn affect behaviour:

(thought) -> (feeling) -> (behaviour)

"People want to take advantage of me" —> feelings of anger —> difficulty in relationships, disharmony at home.

"Elevators are dangerous" —> feelings of fear —> avoiding elevators —> restrictions of where you can live, work, or visit.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Take a minute and think about a recent behaviour that was different than how you wanted it to be. Did that behaviour help? Or did it make the situation worse?

What feelings led to that behaviour?

What thoughts led you to have those feelings?

Can you see other ways your thoughts affect your emotions/feelings or how your emotions/feelings affect your behaviour?

Introduction CBT Part 1