• Monique Peats

Challenging Your “Mental Noise”

Recognizing cognitive distortions help address automatic distracting thoughts, the destructive, distorted thoughts that spin around in our head and lead us to feelings of despair, panic and anxiety, and more likely to act out with unhealthy coping.

Cognitive therapy proposes that depression and anxiety spring from distorted thinking, which leads to feeling down. By learning to identify negative thought processes then applying relatively simple, common-sense intervention techniques, common colds like depression.

The first step is to become familiar with what is called, “cognitive distortions”, the ways we slant our perceptions toward the negative, and in effect, misinterpret reality.

Cognitive distortions lead to highly unrealistic, self-defeating interpretations of reality, and tend to result in overwhelming anxieties and frequent disappointments.

Here are three simple steps to counteract cognitive distortions:

  • Don’t let negative thoughts buzz around in your head—write them down

  • Read over the list of cognitive distortions and see if any apply to your negative thoughts

  • Substitute more objective thoughts for cognitive distortions

Write down negative thoughts allows us to take a good long critical look at them. Do this daily by taking 5-10 minutes using a three column system like the one below.

At first you may wonder how something this simple could help overcome depression or anxiety. But with practice, you can actually change the negative mental habits that lead to panic, self-punishment, or procrastination.

Full Cognitive Distortions list below

Cognitive Distortions List

The following are the Cognitive Distortions that we can all dip into, however, if we get stuck in anyone of these ways of thinking it will affect our mood.

1. All or nothing thinking: Seeing everything as black or white.

  • If your performance falls short of perfection, you see yourself as a failure.

2. Overgeneralization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

  • This always happens to me.

3. Disqualifying the positive: Insisting that positive experiences don’t count.

  • It was lucky.

4. Jumping to Conclusions: Arriving at negative interpretations of events without evidence to support the conclusions.

  • My boss didn’t like my presentation, despite what she said.

5. Mind reading: Arbitrarily concluding that someone is reacting negatively without investigating.

  • I know they dislike me because of X.

6. Fortune Telling: Anticipating negative outcomes, then acting as though they are already established fact.

  • I can already tell this example is going to suck.

7. Magnification or minimization: Exaggerating your errors and belittling your successes, or exaggerating other people’s success and belittling their flaws.

  • Focussing on one misstep instead of the overall success.

8. Emotional Reasoning: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.” Assuming that negative emotions reflect the way things really are.

  • X is out to get me.

9. Shoulds: Trying to motivate yourself because you think you “should”, “must”, or “ought to” do something.

  • I should have finished this already.

10. Labelling: Attaching a label to yourself instead of describing the error.

  • Instead of thinking, “I left the water running,” you think, “I’m such an idiot.”

11. Personalization: Seeing yourself as the cause of a negative event you did not cause.

  • We are late because of me (instead of the traffic actually at fault).