Whether it's battling the urge to hit the snooze button at 6 am or grasping for my last shred of sanity when dealing with difficult people, I find that my thoughts about the situation tend to make or break me.
An unhelpful thought or cognitive distortion occurs when we form false conclusions from irrational thoughts and beliefs rather than facts.
Cognitive distortions influence the way we perceive people, and situations and make decisions.
In this post, I will break down four practical strategies that have helped me to recognize and reframe cognitive distortions to kick unnecessary pain and anxiety to the curb so that I can live my best life.
Strategy #1: Don’t believe every thought you think.
That’s right, not every thought you think is true, valid, or worthy of your attention.
Some of the thoughts that go through my mind on a daily basis can range from deceptively hindering to flat-out offensive.
Looking at evidence I have for certain thoughts helps to ground me in reality.
By practicing awareness, I can notice unhelpful thoughts and choose to not give weight to them.
My thoughts determine how I feel and act and when I replay and give weight to negative irrational thoughts I end up feeling down.
Recognizing red flag thoughts, also called cognitive distortions, helps me spot irrational thoughts faster so I can switch gears before getting too deep down the rabbit hole.
Whenever I notice red flag thoughts, I know that I need to slow my roll and take a beat.
To learn more about red flag thought (cognitive distortions) check out the blog post: 6 Common Cognitive Distortions (and ways to reframe them).
Strategy #2: Question the Usefulness of the ThoughtClick To Add Text
During this stage I reflect on the below questions:
Unhelpful thoughts are disempowering and keep me stuck in lower levels of being.
By questioning the usefulness of my thoughts, I can recognize when they are unhelpful and unproductive and choose a different thought.
As a general rule of thumb a fixed mindset is not very useful or productive.
Fixed mindsets disempower because they assign a permanent label to something or someone that cannot be changed.
Life is not fixed.
There are many factors that determine our circumstances, experiences, and perspectives.
Read more about growth mindsets in this blog post: Fixed and Growth Mindsets.
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Strategy #3: Consider Alternative Views
A teacher once told me “Would you rather be happy, or right?”.
This quote always stuck with me.
If I am so stuck on my own perspective I become closed off to other possibilities and perspectives.
By brainstorming alternative viewpoints I am empowered to move forward instead of stewing on all the reasons why I am right and so and so is wrong.
Strategy #4: Practice Compassionate Awareness
We can’t change what we are not aware of.
When we are caught up in our thoughts, we do not have the space necessary to observe, investigate, and respond.
We become roped into a way of being that may not move us forward in productive ways.
This is not our fault.
Our brains are bombarded with information all the time.
Social media has trained us to move quickly between one piece of information and the next.
Slowing down and increasing our awareness can feel really uncomfortable at first.
Practicing compassionate awareness is a skill that we can practice and become better at.
By becoming aware of my thoughts, I am able to create a compassionate and safe space to investigate how my thinking patterns affect my mood and attitude throughout the day.
Scientists know that compassion is a far better motivator to facilitate change when compared to criticism and judgment.
To learn more, check out this blog article: Motivating Yourself Through Self-Compassion.
These four strategies have helped me identify and compassionately reframe unhelpful thoughts.
Each time I use these strategies, I strengthen my ability to move past cognitive distortions that disempower me and leave me drained.
Mindfulness and awareness are skills we can learn by practicing them.
Our brain is a muscle and the more we flex our awareness muscle, the stronger it gets.
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Casabianca, Sandra Silva. “15 Cognitive Distortions to Blame for Your Negative Thinking.” Psych Central, Psych Central, 11 Jan. 2022, https://psychcentral.com/lib/cognitive-distortions-negative-thinking#definition.
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Hi, I'm Alyssa
Mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and herbal medicine have been fundamental to my own journey in life. I hope to share my experiences and perspectives in order to inspire and connect with others.