Unhelpful Thinking Traps

Unhelpful Thinking Traps
Photo by Jeremy Perkins / Unsplash

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a negative thought pattern that seems impossible to break? These unhelpful thinking traps, also known as cognitive distortions, can be difficult to recognize and even more challenging to overcome. However, by becoming aware of these common mental pitfalls and learning some strategies for reframing your thoughts, you can break free from these unhelpful thought patterns and improve your mental well-being.

Here are five common unhelpful thinking traps and tips for overcoming them:

  1. All-or-nothing thinking: This type of thinking involves seeing things in black-and-white terms, with no room for nuance or shades of grey. For example, you might tell yourself that you are either a complete success or a total failure, with no in-between. To overcome all-or-nothing thinking, try to recognize that most things in life exist on a spectrum and that it’s okay to have flaws and make mistakes.
  2. Overgeneralization: Overgeneralization involves taking one negative experience and applying it to all similar situations. For example, you might tell yourself that you always mess up presentations after one mistake, even though you have given many successful presentations in the past. To overcome overgeneralization, try to focus on specific evidence and look for counterexamples to challenge your negative beliefs.
  3. Mental filter: A mental filter is when you only pay attention to the negative aspects of a situation and ignore the positive ones. For example, you might focus on one mistake you made during a presentation and ignore all the parts that went well. To overcome a mental filter, try to take a more balanced perspective and actively look for the positive aspects of a situation.
  4. Disqualifying the positive: Disqualifying the positive involves discounting positive experiences or achievements as not being “good enough.” For example, you might tell yourself that getting an A- on a test isn’t good enough, even though it’s a high grade. To overcome disqualifying the positive, try to recognize and appreciate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.
  5. Catastrophizing: Catastrophizing is when you blow a small problem or worry out of proportion and assume the worst possible outcome. For example, you might tell yourself that a small disagreement with a friend means the end of the friendship. To overcome catastrophizing, try to take a step back and consider the likelihood of the worst-case scenario actually happening.

By becoming aware of these common unhelpful thinking traps, you can start to recognize when you are falling into them and take steps to reframe your thoughts. Remember, it’s okay to have negative thoughts from time to time, but it’s important to not get stuck in them. Instead, try to approach your thoughts with curiosity and an open mind, and remember that you have the power to change the way you think.

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I hope you find this helpful and as always, thank you for reading,