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Unhelpful Thinking Styles

Sometimes we slip into bad habits. Our thoughts are also guilty of this. We fall into unhelpful ways of thinking that can have a detrimental impact on how we interpret situations and the way we view the world.

See if you’ve ever slipped into any of these unhelpful ways of thinking:

Expectations – What we feel we ‘should’ or ‘must’ do.  Who says this? Ask yourself, are these your own high standards?

Polarised – Consider the different ends of the spectrum from all to nothing. Is there an area in between?

Storm clouds – When things feel grey and miserable we tend to focus on the negatives. Are there any positives to the situation we find ourselves in? Try to look for a silver lining. 

Internal critic – Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Would you speak this way to those you care about? Be mindful of the internal dialogue and turn down the critic.

Catastrophic thinking – Exaggerating the predicted outcome can be unhelpful and usually tends to be worst-case scenario. How helpful is this thought? What’s more likely to happen?  Try balancing your thoughts to consider a more rational perspective. 

Fortune telling – Are you trying to predict the future or read people’s minds? How often in the past have your predictions been accurate? What’s the evidence for these thoughts? 

Guided by emotion – ‘Because I feel this way it must be accurate’. Sometimes our physical response to situations are exaggerated and are not 100% accurate. 

Personalisation – Taking responsibility for everything. Is this really all your fault? Are there others who you can share this with? How much influence did you have over the situation?

Overgeneralisation – Does it feel like ‘everyone’ has the perfect life? You ‘always’ mess up or things ‘never’ go to plan. Bring your attention to how often you use these words as sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. 

Compare/despair – Focusing on the positives of others and the negatives of yourself. Failing to recognise your own positive attributes.

Labelling – Giving yourself a label ‘I am…’. Does this apply to you all the time? Are there times when this isn’t true? What would your friends say about this? 

Reference: Beck, A. T., Rush, A. J., Shaw, B. F., Emery, G. (1979). Cognitive Therapy of Depression. New York: Guilford press.

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