Changing Cognitive Distortions

I discussed Cognitive Distortions a couple of posts ago in Cognitive Distortions. I like to take this post to list some techniques that can help you change those distorted views. Dr. Burns listed plenty of help techniques. I will discuss a couple here. I recommend buying the book to get the full scope of techniques. It is important to remove these distortions from permeating our lives, so that we can move towards healing and living more peacefully.

  • Positive Reframing– Putting your focus on the negative thoughts and difficult emotions one is feeling. Ask yourself these two questions: (1) What are the advantages, or benefits to these type of emotions and thoughts? (2) What do these thoughts and emotions tell me about myself and my values that is wonderful?

Feelings of anxiety can show that an upcoming event is meaningful to you, or that you are doing something outside your comfort zone, which can be something beneficial to you in the long run. Looking at these emotions is a different light can help alleviate the negativity associated with these difficult emotions. You may start to feel better about an upsetting situation.

  • Straightforward Technique-This one is pretty straightforward as the name states, but as straightforward as it is, this can be difficult for most to do. Try to switch your perspective to a more positive, or realistic approach, rather than negative.

Ask yourself questions, Is this negative thought really true? Do I truly believe it? Is there another way to look at it? I absolutely love this technique, and use it all the time. Switching your perspective can make such a difference to your state of mind.

  • Double Standard Technique-Rather than putting yourself down. Try talking to yourself in a way you would talk to a good friend you care about.

It is so much easier to be cruel to ourselves, and lift other up when they are down, but we should learn to show the same kindness to ourselves. When you say negative things to yourself, remind yourself if this is something you would say to a friend who is going through the same thing, or who would say those negative things about themselves.

  • Examine the Evidence-Rather than looking at things in a negative light. Try to look into the facts of what you are saying.

Is what you are saying really true? What are the facts? What does it show? Telling yourself you are a failure. Look up the definition, does that truly describe you. In most cases this would not be the case.

  • Socratic Method-This is when you take a deeper look into what you are saying, and analyze if it is true or not.

If you think you are a failure, or a awful person, or suck at life. Look into what those words really mean. Do you truly fail all the time to be a failure, or have you had some achievements? Are you really awful?, or did you make a mistake, or make one bad decision out of all the great things you do? Does life truly suck, or are you having one bad moment? Is that really relative to you, or is this something that happens to everyone? This method allows you to look into what you are saying, and find insight to the truth of the matter. It showcases our faulty thought patterns.

  • Thinking in Shades of Gray-We usually face problems, because we tend to see things in black and white, but things in life aren’t normally that way.

There are good and bad things about oneself and life. Experiences in life aren’t always great or bad. You are not perfect, and one mistake doesn’t make you a horrible human being. Learning to look at both sides is important.

  • Semantic Method-This method is about looking at the language you use to define life experiences. Instead of saying, “I shouldn’t have made this mistake this,” you can say, “It would have been better if I have not made that mistake.” Instead of saying, I can’t do this, it is too hard” try saying, “It will be hard to do this, but I can try my best. Instead of saying, “I hate how I look,” try saying “I don’t look my best today.” Instead of thinking, “I hate my life,” try thinking, “this moment sucks, but it will pass.”

Finding better wording can allow one space to practice self-kindness and compassion. It is all in how you word things. Wording things in a more compassionate, and positive way can help you move through difficult situations much more smoothly.

  • Let’s Define Terms-This method allows you to actually look at the definition you are labeling yourself.

When you label yourself a loser, failure, foolish, ugly, horrible etc,. Once you look up the actual term for these things. You realize that doesn’t define you. When you actually look up these definitions. You realize how absurd it is to define oneself in those ways.

  • Be Specific-It is important to focus on the specific situation, problem, mistake flaw etc,. It is easy to globalize our problems, mistakes, flaws to other areas. It is just one bad day, one flaw, one mistake. There are plenty of good days, things to appreciate, and strengths to yourself and your life.
  • Self-Monitoring-This method is about keeping tracking of all your negative thoughts, either writing them down when you have them, or put the number of how many negative thoughts came to mind on a watch or phone. This can make you aware of how often you have negative thoughts. Having this awareness cultivates a diminishing of the negative thoughts.

I really like the self-monitoring technique. Awareness is very important to self-improvement and recovery. Having a visual really can open our eyes, and allow us to make changes.

I believe all these techniques above can be beneficial to changing our distorted ways of thinking. It can help cultivate a healthier mindset, and peace of mind. There are plenty more techniques in the book, but wanted to limit it to the ones I liked the best. I recommend the book if you like to know more, but I think these techniques suffice. It is important to be aware of our faulty thought patterns, so we can figure out ways to cope and manage them, so that our lives can be more fulfilled.

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