Cognitive Distortion: Thinking That Drags You Down

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If you’re anything like me, you know that your mind...

If you’re anything like me, you know that your mind can get the best of you sometimes. One minute I’m thinking about something, then, all of a sudden, I’m fantasizing about the worst-case scenario and getting myself worked up about it.

Cognitive Distortions

These negative messages we create in our heads are also called cognitive distortions, and they really can do a number on our moods and behaviors. Below are just a few to look out for:

  • All-or-nothing thinking:  Say you pulled off an event where everything went right, but one very small element of it went wrong.  With this way of thinking, the fact that it didn’t run perfectly can make you see the entire event as a failure.
  • Filtering:  This is when you focus only on the negative, which then overshadows all the good.  An example of this would be serving a volleyball into the net during a match.  Even though your team won and you had other amazing hits, you dwell on this one misstep.
  • Disqualifying the positive:  This is when one focuses only on the negative aspects of the situation – and ignores the positive.  Thus, that person finds themselves explaining why the praise for what they’ve done right isn’t really deserved.
  • Jumping to conclusions:  This is the tendency to assume the worst before even knowing all the facts, which causes you to look pessimistically into the future, even if there’s no basis for doing so.
  • Personalization:  This is when you hold yourself responsible for negative events that don’t even concern you, such as someone not calling you back.  In your mind, you’ve convinced yourself that that person is mad at you, when in reality, he or she got tied up at work and ran out of time to call.

What’s the Plan?

So what can we do to stop feeding into these distortions and start embracing healthier ways of thinking and reacting? According to this recent article, we must first cultivate awareness. Oftentimes, we’re having this running dialogue in our heads without even realizing we’re doing it.

Identifying – then challenging – these negative thoughts comes next. Think about all the times you’ve succeeded and made the right decisions. Acknowledge these past occurrences and then question how likely a negative outcome is going to result out of this situation. Even if it does, so what?  Odds are, it probably won’t be nearly as bad as you’ve created in your mind.

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Finally, start practicing this way of thinking so you can move forward. Dismissing negative thoughts as soon as they pop into your mind frees up space so you can stop dwelling in negativity and live a life less burdened by the “what if’s?”



Image Source: iStock

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