Have you ever wondered; ”Does anyone else have these kinds of thoughts?” Thoughts like “They didn’t call back so I must have done something wrong to upset them.” Or, consider what thoughts you have when someone gives you a compliment? Do you think something like; “They wouldn’t say I was a good mother if they saw how many times I yelled at my kids?” If these sound familiar, they are just two examples of cognitive distortions.
Irrational or exaggerated thought patterns are often referred to as cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions can be formed in ways such as trying to cope with difficult life events or when you are attempting to have increased control over your circumstances. These thoughts can be hurtful to your mental health as they may result in depression, anxiety, or elevated stress just to name a few.
Examples of Cognitive Distortions
- All or nothing thinking- seeing situations with no middle ground
- Overgeneralization – applying a result from one event to all other events
- Filtering – focusing only on negative aspects
- Disqualifying the positive- rejecting positive things about yourself
- Jumping to conclusions- believing that you know what a person is thinking
- Magnification- blowing things out of proportion
- Emotional reasoning- believing that a negative thought reflects something true
- “Should’ statements- “I should be better at my job by now”
- Catastrophizing- imagining the worst possible outcome
How Can You Take Power Over These Thoughts?
These thoughts can be frustrating and hard to recognize when you have spent a lot of your time believing that they are rational. For example, if you struggle with “should statements” you might be subconsciously telling yourself that you “should” be doing this or “should” be better at that consistently throughout your day. The good news is that there are ways that you can change your negative thought patterns.
3 Ways You CAN Change your Thoughts
Becoming aware of your own cognitive distortions is a great way to decrease negative thinking. You could do this by keeping a journal of your thoughts and writing them down as you experience them. Another way you could do this is by sharing your thoughts with a trusted person such as a friend, family member, or therapist. Becoming aware of these thoughts equips you to actively decide if you believe these thoughts to be “TRUth” or “lies”.
Challenging your negative thoughts is another good way to change them. You can challenge your thoughts by asking yourself a series of questions. Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
Questions to Challenge Negative Thoughts
- Is this a fact or my opinion?
- What evidence is there to support this thought?
- Why am I certain of these outcomes?
- What is the worst that could happen?
- How would I cope with the worst case scenario?
These types of questions can help you think more logically about a situation and help decrease the likelihood of spiraling downward.
Reframing is being able to take your cognitive distortions and challenge them in another direction. Instead of allowing the negative thoughts to dominate, you choose to reframe them with the positive potential. It not only changes your perception of the situation, but also changes the meaning of the thought for yourself. You can reframe your thinking by actively doing it in your head, doing it outloud, or on a piece of paper. For example, let’s say that you are struggling with disqualifying the positive. The thought that may be occurring for you is “I only got that job promotion because another person turned it down.” You would reframe this thought by saying something such as “I got that job promotion because I give my best every day and always meet my deadlines.” By doing this you are able to take power over your negative thoughts.
If you found this helpful and want to move forward to heal and explore what your best next steps are then we are here for you. At New Vision Counseling and Consulting we have a team of therapists trained to walk with you through the pain and help you heal and make sense of what to do next. You don’t need to walk this path alone because we are here to help. You can reach us at (405) 921-7776 or go to our website at NewVisionCounseilng.org to learn more about how we can best help you.