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8 Wise Ways to Understand and Manage Cognitive Distortions

8 wise ways to understand and manage cognitive distortions

Cognitive distortions are internal mental filters or biases that increase our misery, fuel our anxiety, and make us feel bad about ourselves. Our brains are continually processing lots of information. To deal with this, our brains seek shortcuts to cut down our mental burden which can lead to faulty or inaccurate thinking, perception or belief that are commonly negative. For many cognitive distortions are simply momentary blip but for some they become the bedrock of low self-belief and self-esteem, navigating is through life in a less than ideal way. Recognising our cognitive distortions helps us to overcome them and create healthier thought patterns that improve the quality of our life and our psychological wellbeing.

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking: also known as black-and-white thinking involves viewing things in absolute terms: Situations are always black or white, everything or nothing, good or bad, success or failure.
    Example:  dwelling on mistakes and assuming you will never be able to do well, instead of acknowledging the error and trying to move past it.
    Action: Replace the self-defeating thoughts by focussing on the facts rather than the fiction you tell yourself.
  2. Magnification: exaggerating your negative qualities while minimizing your positive ones.
    Example: when something bad happens, you see this as “proof” of your own failures. But when good things happen, you minimize their importance. pain is.
    Action: To overcome magnification, focus on learning how to identify these thoughts and
  3. “Should” Statements: involve always thinking about things that you think you “should” or “must” do. These types of statements can make you feel worried or anxious. They can also cause you to experience guilt or a sense of failure.
    Example: Thinking you should diet without ever overeating or eating chocolate or having a desert. When you then do one of those things you feel angry and upset with yourself and feel like a failure.
    Action: When you recognise this thinking process, focus on self-compassion, replace statements with facts and accept yourself for who you are rather than who you think you should be.
  4. Labelling: involves making a judgment about yourself or someone else as a person, rather than seeing the behaviour as something the person did that doesn’t define them as an individual.
    Example: labelling someone as a an ‘idiot’ because of one interaction and continue to judge them in all future interactions through that lens with no room for redemption.
    Action: Combat labelling by challenging the accuracy of your assumptions. Look for evidence that counters your negative thoughts. Remind yourself of the difference between opinions and facts.
  5. Personalization and Blame:  whereby you entirely blame yourself, or someone else, for a situation that, in reality, involved many factors that were out of your control.
    Example: blaming yourself for your child not doing well in school.  Instead of trying to find out why your child is struggling and exploring ways to help, you assume it is a sign that you are a bad parent.
    Action: When you find yourself engaging in this cognitive distortion, make a conscious effort to consider other factors that might have played a role in the situation. Instead of blaming yourself for something that happened, consider external factors or other people’s actions that might have also been contributing factors.
  6. Emotional Reasoning: a way of judging yourself or your circumstances based on your emotions. This type of reasoning assumes that because you are experiencing a negative emotion, it must accurately reflect reality.
    Example: Feelings of guilt leading you to think that you are a bad or worthless person leading to episodes of anxiety and depression.
    Action: Focus in the facts.  Ask yourself “what is the evidence to support this thought and belief” “where is the evidence that disproves this thought and belief”.
  7. Overgeneralising: when you make a rule after a single event or a series of coincidences that manifest into words such as “always” or “never”. Because you have experience with one event playing out a certain way, you assume that all future events will have the same outcome.
    Example: after making a suggestion for a work project that wasn’t adopted in the final work, you then overgeneralize this and assume that no one at work ever listens to you or takes you seriously.
    Action: Focus on using realistic language such as “this happens sometimes, but I’ll try a different way next time” or find out the actual reason behind the outcome of this situation to have a better and more accurate understanding.
  8. Discounting the Positive: involves ignoring or invalidating good things that have happened to you. Simply ignoring the positives, you are actively rejecting them.
    Example: You complete a project and receive an award for your outstanding work. But rather than feeling proud of your achievement, you attribute it to pure luck that has nothing to do with your talent and effort.
    Action: Learn to reframe your thoughts so instead of seeing positive outcomes as flukes, focus on noticing how your own strengths, skills, and efforts contributed to the outcome.

Become more aware of your thoughts and try to notice the those that contribute to feelings of anxiety, negativity, or depression. Practices such as journaling may help you build better awareness of your own thoughts. The 8Wise 12-week Journal and 8Wise 12-month Planner can support you with this.

Good luck with boosting your emotional wellness by focussing in reframing your mind and rationalising your thought patterns.  Don’t forget if you would like some additional support our 8Wise™ Wellness Programme focusses on Mental Wealth to develop optimal levels of Mental Health and Wellbeing.  It can help you address every aspect of your health and wellbeing and improve your quality of life.

If you would like to book a session or register for our next programme, get in touch today.

For more information on 8Wise™ and the mental health services provided check out the rest of this website.

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