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How to think better thoughts

Updated: Sep 14, 2022

If anyone asked me a few years ago how stressed I was on a daily basis, I'd probably raise my hand high... It took me years to overcome some of my thougt patterns that were unhelpful. I didn't know how much of a role I played in contributing to my own stress levels.

Did you know what we think and how we think can tremendously contribute to stress?

Throughout the years I did not understand how important mental health hygiene was. Back in time, nobody was talking about everyday struggles they have and how stress can negatively impact so many areas of your life - performance at work, sleep, our relationships, our physical wellbeing etc.

I didn't have a clue that we all have common thoughts which were researched and categorised into 15 thinking errors. This helped me understand my mind better and to develop some tactics around the way I think so that I can prevent my stress level from elevating.

  1. All-or-nothing thinking - your mind loves making generalisation and sticking to extremes. Everything is black or white. Example: "I am a good writer only if my books are NYT bestsellers."

  2. Labelling - this is when we put others into certain boxes based on the little knowledge we have about them and their situation. Example: "She didn't clean up the dishes after lunch. She is a very messy person."

  3. Focusing on the negative - there are times that we can't see anything else other than a negative, instead of seeing a bigger picture and all circumstances. Example: "My husband never does what I ask him to do."

  4. Discounting the positive - even when there are positive events, we often discount them as unimportant. Example: "My friends only hang out with me because they are bored. They have nothing else to do."

  5. Mind-reading - we easily interpret the behaviour or the way of thinking of other people to frame the negative reaction towards us. Example: "My colleague didn't say hello to me this morning. He is probably upset that I left earlier yesterday"

  6. Fortune-telling - is when we envision the worst of the worst possible scenarios, even though there is not a single evidence that things will go that way. Example: "I will never pass that exam no matter how hard I study"

  7. Magnification or 'awfulizing' - in our mind we tend to build a scale of the event that is significantly more dramatic and negative than in reality. Example: "I will lose my job if I don't finish this project on time"

  8. Minimization - we sometimes give credit to everything else but ourselves. Example: "I only got the pay raise because my manager thinks I'm funny."

  9. Emotional reasoning - we assess the situation based on the way we feel. Example: "I feel very anxious about watersports. They must be bad for me."

  10. Blame - when we blame everything and everyone for problems that emerge. Example: "I can't find my phone. Someone moved it."

  11. Overgeneralization - when something didn't go well and we expect the same outcome every single time. Example: "I better resign from those studies. I already failed an exam"

  12. 'Personalisation' - we assign the entire blame to ourselves for the things that we were part of. Example: "My team didn't win this game. It's all my fault."

  13. 'Demanding-ness' - these are all of ours "musts", "shoulds" and "got tos". We often hold unrealistic expectations or absolutist beliefs about how things should look like. Example: "My partner and I should never argue."

  14. 'Phoney-ism' - when we are scared that others might find out we are not really that good/knowledgeable etc. Example: "My partner will find out how hopeless I am if I will lose this job."

  15. 'I-can't-stand-it-itis' - the way we perceive our forbearance to a frustrating circumstance. Example: "I can't deal with slow cashiers."

When we realise our thought patterns and those thoughts are not facts, we can actually start creating new ones that will be much more helpful. This ability can allow us to live much better and less stressful lives in any situation.

Can you spot your own thinking errors?

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