Unhelpful Thinking Styles

Unhelpful Thinking Styles

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Take a look at this handy guide which lists several common unhelpful thinking styles or “cognitive distortions.” These patterns of thinking can cause us to perceive our reality inaccurately.

Thinking styles that are unhelpful exaggerate or minimize the significance of events. Occasionally, you might think that your accomplishments are unimportant or that your mistakes are significant. Alternatively, you magnify others’ positive qualities and minimize your own.

Source: Barbara Heffernan

Also Read: Lonely People Are More Likely to Be Successful Than Those Who Aren’t

Do you find your thoughts frequently gravitating toward any of these styles of thinking?

Cognitive distortions such as these can reinforce negative thinking and negative emotion, which can make us feel bad or inadequate, including while we develop our mindfulness practice.

Note: While reading this guide, please make note of any unhelpful mental habits that you might have.

They may come to light during your mindfulness practice. Through our practice, we are all learning to become observers of the mind, with the power to question and release unhelpful thoughts.

In your practice, you may sometimes notice your thoughts take a turn toward one of these common thinking styles. In these moments we may ask ourselves: “Is this current line of thinking helpful, or unhelpful?” If a thought is not helpful to you, best let it go its own way.

Unhelpful Thinking Styles

One or more unhelpful thoughts usually precede an unpleasant emotion (such as sadness or anxiety). It is possible for these thoughts to be irrational and have an impact on your emotions. Unhelpful thoughts occur to everyone at some point, but when they occur automatically and consistently, they can lead to emotional distress.

Listed below are some examples of unhelpful thinking styles – as you read through them, you may notice some unhelpful thoughts you have.

Unhelpful Thinking Style #1: All-or-nothing thinking

Sometimes called ‘black and white thinking’. If I’m not perfect, I have failed. Either I do it right or not at all.

Unhelpful Thinking Style #2: Overgeneralizing

For instance: “everything is always rubbish” or “nothing good ever happens”

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

Unhelpful Thinking Style #3: Mental Filter

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

Unhelpful Thinking Style #4: Disqualifying the positive

Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for some reason or another.  That doesn’t count.

Unhelpful Thinking Style #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) Unhelpful Thinking Style #6:

Unhelpful Thinking Style #6: Magni­cation (catastrophising) & minimization

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

Unhelpful Thinking Style #7: Emotional reasoning

Assuming that because we feel a certain way what we think must be true. I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot.

Unhelpful Thinking Style #8: should, must

Using critical words like ‘should’, ‘must’, or ‘ought’ can make us feel guilty, or like we have already failed.  If we apply ‘should’s’ to other people, the result is often frustration.

Unhelpful Thinking Style #9: Labelling

Assigning labels to ourselves or other people, such as:

  1. I’m a loser
  2. I’m completely useless
  3. They’re such an idiot

Unhelpful Thinking Style #10: Personalization “this is my fault”, etc.

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

Here are five ways to stop spiralling negative thoughts from taking control:

  1. Remove “should” thoughts from your mind.
  2. Identify automatic negative thinking.
  3. Putt your thoughts to the trial.
  4. Take a moment to acknowledge how overwhelmed you feel.
  5. Don’t force yourself to think positively.

Practical Exercises for Unhelpful Thoughts and Anxious Thinking

Practical Exercises for Unhelpful Thoughts and Anxious Thinking

Related: Signs of Imposter Syndrome

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