Sample thought challenge

Let's take a look at a sample answer for the following thought: people who have children are so much happier than those who don't.. Remember, this is just an example, and the answers will be different for everyone. In other words, this is about showing the process of challenging thoughts, rather than giving any answers.

What evidence do you have for the thought?

I tend to notice more happy people with kids (e.g. at the park or on Facebook). However, I'm not sure that this is strong "evidence" since I don't know how their lives are behind closed doors.

What evidence do you have against the thought?

I've read a few news articles that say people with children are, on average, less happy than people with children. Also, I have friends with children, and I wouldn't say that they seem like happier people – they seem to have just as many problem as everyone else. In fact, the people who try really hard to show you how happy they are (e.g. on Facebook) are often the ones who are trying to prove something. If you are happy, you don’t need to “show it off”, so I should be careful when comparing myself to others.

What would you tell a friend (to help them) if they had the thought?

I would tell my friend that happiness is an elusive concept. Often we think that when one things happened to us, that will make us happy. For example, "everything will be so much better when I move/get a new job/have more money/etc." However, the reality is that these things don't usually turn out to be the solution to all of life's problems. True happiness depends on many things, and can be sought at any point in life. Focusing on the things we have in our lives can make us happy.

Think of your calmest, most rational and supportive friend or family member. How would he or she react to the causal thought? What would he or she say?

He would point out that having children is one “life task” that most people want. However, not everyone succeeds in this, and happiness can found in other areas of life for these folks.

What does the thought do for you? How does it make you feel? Is it helpful in any way, or is it just distressing?

It's kind of ironic – worrying about my future happiness tends to make me unhappy in the present. In that sense, it isn't helpful at all.

What good things would you gain if you gave up the thought? How would your life be different if you didn't believe the thought?

I would feel so much better if I gave up this thought. I would stop comparing myself with others. I would also start to see some of the benefits of my life, and probably end up being a lot happier.