Do you think negative thoughts on a regular basis? Reframing negative thoughts can reduce the impact these thought patterns have on your everyday life.
What are 'thought distortions'?
Sometimes our negative feelings have some validity, but this doesn't mean they're helpful. Other times we may experience 'thought distortions'. There are many kinds of thought distortions, including:
- Black-and-white thinking (seeing things as either/or, with no room for flexibility)
- Overgeneralization (falsely predicting that the same thing will happen over and over again)
- Catastrophizing (expecting the worst possible outcome to occur)
Label your thoughts
Label your thought distortions as: (1) black-and-white; (2) overgeneralization; (3) catastrophic.
For example, many people say "I am going to fail!" when heading into a tough situation. In reality, they have prepared well and are ready for the challenge. This is a catastrophic thought distortion.
Think about the facts
Once you've labeled your thought, start thinking about it critically. Is it really true? Is there evidence to support the thought? Consider both concrete evidence and your emotions when you evaluate your thought. For example, if you're worried about ruining a presentation, think about the concrete evidence: Have you prepared? Do you know the material well? Is your thought distortion driven by nervousness or worry?
If you avoid going to a restaurant because one time you had severe urgency to use the washroom, then you are overgeneralizing. If you think that your coworkers are either IBD-friendly or not IBD-friendly you are not considering the range of knowledge and attitudes toward IBD.
After collecting evidence about your thought, see if there is an alternative thought that could be more accurate. For instance, "I have studied hard for this exam" or "I have done my best on the presentation." or "Generally people find me pleasant".
Show yourself some compassion when dealing with negative thoughts. You may see that some of them are true in some situations. Others can clearly be labelled as thought distortions. In either case, practice self-compassion by forgiving yourself for the negative thought. Be as forgiving to yourself as you are to others. Change comes slowly, take one small step at a time.