Most of us have an inner dialogue, that little voice inside our heads.

It is often influenced by our subconscious minds and can speak to our ideas, beliefs, questions, etc. Likely, you do not give a whole lot of thought to what it is saying, and just take it at face value, but our self-talk has a significant impact on our general outlook on life and how we deal with day to day events. By practicing positive thinking, we can make beneficial changes to our physical health, including improved immune function, better cardiovascular health, and reduced stress. Additionally, it is valuable to our mental well-being once we learn not to sweat the small stuff and to build up the confidence we have in ourselves. Thoughts also have the power to affect our behaviours….for example, if you think “Nobody likes me” you might become sad and unmotivated, leading to withdrawing from socializing with others, which means you miss out on meeting new people and forming potential friendships. It is a vicious cycle to get caught in, so below we have outlined some unhelpful thinking styles you can identify in yourself, and hopefully make a conscious effort to break.

10 COGNITIVE DISTORTIONS:

1. ALL OR NOTHING

Sometimes called black and white thinking, events are separated into categories and there is no middle ground or ‘grey area’.

Examples:
“If I’m not perfect I have failed”

“Either I do it right or not at all

2. OVER-GENERALIZING

Seeing a pattern based upon a single event, or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw.

Examples:
“Everything always sucks”

“Nothing good ever happens”

3. MENTAL FILTER

Only paying attention to certain types of evidence or noticing our failures but not seeing our successes.

Examples:
“I got two ‘needs improvement’ comments on my performance evaluation, I’m terrible at my job”

“I ate badly this week, I might as well give up on trying to eat healthy”

4. DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE

Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for some reason or another.

Examples:
“That doesn’t count”

“She only said that to be nice”

5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

There are two key types of jumping to conclusions:
Mind Reading ~ imagining we know what others are thinking
Fortune Telling ~ predicting the future

Examples:
“Everyone thinks I’m stupid for saying that”

“I’m not going to get the job anyway

6. MAGNIFICATION & MINIMILIZATION

Blowing things out of proportion (catastrophizing), or inappropriately shrinking something to make it seem less important (minimalizing)

Examples:
“Now I’m going to lose my job, go bankrupt, and end up homeless”

“It’s not a big deal I did well on my exam, so did a lot of my friends in my class”

7. EMOTIONAL REASONING

Assuming that because we feel a certain way what we think must be true.

Examples:
“I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot”

“I feel ugly so I must be ugly”

8. 'SHOULD' STATEMENTS

Using critical words like ‘should’ ‘must’ or ‘ought’ can make us feel guilty, or like we have already failed.

Examples:
“I should be cleaning the house right now”

“I must lose weight to be more attractive”

9. LABELLING

Assigning labels to ourselves or other people.

Examples:
“I’m a loser and completely useless”

“They’re such an idiot because they misspelled a word”

10. PERSONALIZATION

Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t completely your fault or blaming other people for something that was your fault.

Examples:
“If only I had left the house at a different time, this would have been avoided”

“I forgot to bring my lunch to work, my mom should have reminded me or this wouldn’t have happened”

Remember: It’s okay. All you can do is your best. You are only human.

Everyone makes mistakes. You will learn from your mistakes. Some things are beyond our control.

Once you are made aware of these thinking styles, write down your negative, self-defeating thoughts and change them into more positive/helpful thoughts

Change “I’ll never be able to complete this task” to “I can work on it a little bit each day”

 This will take practice, requiring mental rehearsal and patience, as it takes some time for new patterns of thinking to become automatic. Make a habit of protecting your own energy from those who are negatively draining – the chronic complainers, unable to take responsibility, and overly dramatic. To effectively handle this, respond mindfully instead of reacting. Don’t match their tone or repeat the language they were using, but keep calm and don’t lower yourself to their level. You may want to introduce lighter topics of discussion, and focus on solutions rather than problems. Most importantly, limit your contact with such people and establish boundaries by saying “I only have a few minutes before I have to ______” so they can’t take up so much of your precious time.

Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.

Helen Keller

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