The way you think affects the way you feel. So, changing your unhelpful thoughts is the key to feeling better.
Here is a simple and effective strategy to challenge some of those common thinking traps.
1.Separate your thoughts from actual events by ask yourself:
- What actually happened? Use facts only.
- What am I telling myself?
- How do I feel?
- How am I reacting and what am I doing to cope?
2.Identify the thinking traps
Review your thoughts and identify if you have used any of the thinking traps and falling into distorted thinking patterns?
3.Challenge the thinking traps
The best way to break a thinking trap is to look at your thoughts like an investigator looking for hard facts. Use the evidence you’ve collected to challenge your thinking traps.
Here are a few simple techniques.
Examine the evidence:
Try to find evidence AGAINST the thought. For example your boss never says ‘good morning’ to you, you might automatically think, “My boss doesn’t like me at all. I must be a terrible employee!” When this thought comes up, you might challenge it by asking, “Is there any evidence to support this thought? Is there any evidence to disprove this thought?” You might quickly realize that your boss is not a morning person and can be rude at times, but he is like that to others, not just me,’ which doesn’t support the idea that you’re a bad employee.
Ask yourself, “Would I judge other people if they did the same thing? Am I being harder on myself than I am on other people?” This is a great method for challenging thinking traps that involve harsh self-criticism.
Find out whether other people you trust agree with your thoughts. For example, you might have trouble with an aspect of a team project and think, “If I was smarter I would know what to do. Clearly I am out of my depth” To challenge this though, you can ask project members if they’ve been having problems understanding the project brief.
Conduct an experiment
Test your beliefs in person. For example, if you think you think that your friends don’t care about you, call a few friends and make plans to get together. If you assumed that they will all say no, you may be pleasantly surprised to hear that they do want to see you.
How to balance in your thoughts
Once you have worked through some challenges, try to think of a more balanced thought to replace the old thinking traps. Here is a working example.
My friend said she was going to ring me about a party invite for next weekend. It’s been over a week and she still hasn’t called me.
She doesn’t like me and prefers to ask another friend rather than me. That’s so rude of her to change her mind and not tell me.
- Mind Reading
- Fortune telling
Challenging the thought
Examine the evidence: She has never been rude to me in the past. I have no proof she doesn’t like me or that she has asked another friend instead.
There could be lots of other reasons why she hasn’t called. She could just be busy with work to call during the day. She also has a young family and hasn’t found the time to call in the evening to discuss the party in detail. We are still great friends. I’ll initiate the call before I jump to any negative conclusions about our friendship.
Healthy thinking is a core principle of CBT. If you think you would like help to develop your healthy thinking skills further, then consider working with a qualified CBT practitioner. Ask your doctor or search online for local practitioners.