Mental health is linked to our biology, thoughts, feelings, overall health, environment and life events. The subject of mental health is continually being researched and new and improved ways of maintaining and treating mental health are always immerging and improving.
One of the most common types of talk therapy centers around how we feel and think. Many of our feelings can stem from our thoughts. Although we may not always be able to control our thoughts, we can evaluate them and determine their validity and helpfulness.
Have you heard of ‘Thought Distortions’?
This common phrase is used by many mental health professionals and is referring to inaccurate or exaggerated thoughts that damage self-esteem, mood, and relationships with others. They can be extreme and frequent, often contributing to anxiety and depression.
It’s hard to feel good when someone is saying mean things to you all the time, especially when that person is you!
Before you speak to yourself ask, would I say this to a friend?
If not, then you shouldn’t say it to yourself.
According to Aaron Beck, one of the developers of Cognitive (or thought) Distortions, there are approximately 11 common thought distortions. Below are 8 of the most common.
1. All-or-nothing thinking: You see things black or white, good or bad, all or none. There is no gray area—just the extremes. It has to be perfect or else you’re a failure. Example: “I’m always a horrible mother.” “I’m never going to get it together.”
2. Overgeneralization: Taking a single event and making sweeping conclusions. Example: “My boss is mad at me. I’m sure I am going to be fired.” You can also label yourself by saying, “I made a mistake, therefore I am a failure."
3. Negative mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it, ignoring all the positive or neutral things that might have happened. Example: “It was such an important meeting. Why did I make that stupid statement? I’m such an idiot.”
4. Discounting the positive: You ignore when good things happen by insisting they “don’t count” because there were other circumstances. This allows your brain to stay in a pattern of negative thinking. Example: “No one will ever love me.” “We love you.” “No, you don’t understand. No one will ever love me.”
5. Jumping to conclusions: You assume that something bad will happen or that someone will have negative feelings toward you, even though you don’t have any evidence to support that thought. Example: “My boss must be mad at me for being late. I’m not going to bother talking to him because he won’t believe my excuse.”
6. Should statements: You focus on how things should have gone or should have been rather than how they actually are. When you direct should statements toward others, you can feel anger, frustration, and resentment. Examples: “I should really exercise more. I’m so gross.” or “My brother should have talked to me before he made any decisions about where our family is going. He’s so inconsiderate.”
7. Personalization: You take on responsibility for negative events, ignoring how other people or factors may have contributed. Example: “Our relationship ended because I was a bad partner.”
8. Blaming: The opposite of personalization. You lay blame entirely on other people, without thinking about where you may have gone wrong or how you could have changed a situation. Example: “Our project is slowed down because they never made a point to contact me. This is all their fault.”
Fortunately, with practice, you can address and change these thoughts. By noticing the negative things you say to yourself, you can start to choose nicer thoughts to replace them.
If the thoughts are attacking your identity, write them down. Once you can visualize the lies. you can better prepare a 'defense'.
You can 'deploy' the truth of your identity in Christ. Some of these include:
I am a child of God (Ephesians 1:3-8)
I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)
I am secure in his hand (John 10:28)
I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
I am loved and eternally valuable (Jeremiah 31:3).