Are you your own worst critic? Many of us would say we are. While being able to hold yourself to a high standard can help push you towards improving various aspects of your life, all too often our inner dialogue and thought patterns can slip from helpful to hurtful.
Studies have gone so far as to suggest that destructive thoughts can negatively impact our physical health, as well as our overall mental wellbeing. Being able to recognize and reframe some of these toxic thoughts could help us become mentally and physically healthier. Here are just a few common cognitive distortions that are worth recognizing and changing to help you be happier:
If you’ve ever gone into a situation expecting the worst possible outcome, you may be catastrophizing. For example, before a blind date, you may think, “We’re not going to have anything to talk about and I’ll spend the whole time wishing it was over.”But shifting your thoughts to a more realistic view may help. Instead, think, “It might be awkward at first, but we could really hit it off and have a great time.”
All-or-nothing thinking is looking at situations in absolutes. Using words like “always” and “never,” “everyone” and “no one” is common with this type of distortion.Thinking, “Everyone else is better at their job than I am; I never do anything right.” Versus, “I may mess up from time to time, but there’s a lot that I do well every day.”
- Mental Filter
Many people will fixate on the negative while overlooking the positive, which is called having a mental filter. For example, during a performance review that’s mostly positive you might think, “My boss critiqued my time management; she must think I’m bad at my job.”Rather than seeing the situation more accurately and thinking, “My boss recognizes that I do a lot well and now I know how I can become even better at my job.”
- Should Statements
When you start thinking about how you “should” do this or that, you can also cultivate feelings of guilt, which doesn’t generate healthy motivation.Rather than thinking, “I should have worked out more this week,” try, “Last week was busy for me, so this week I’ll make some changes and get back on track.”
Labeling is when you use negative terms to describe yourself rather than your actions. For example, thinking “I’m dumb” rather than, “I made a mistake.” Repeatedly telling yourself that you are something (stupid, lazy, incapable), can subconsciously cause you to believe it’s actually true.On the flip side, why not replace those negative thoughts with positive ones? Tell yourself instead that you’re smart, motivated, and capable and see how you feel about yourself after a while.
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