Thinking errors are irrational patterns of thinking that impair judgment and cause you to feel stressed and anxious. To break this unhealthy cycle, you need to learn how to identify your thinking errors and challenge them with logical and rational self talk. Our self-talk guides us on our perspective on life and the way we interact with others. If we are not in control of our internal monologue it can lead to cognitive distortions. The key is to recognize and replace our thoughts with new and more accurate thoughts. Here are six common thinking errors:
1. Catastrophizing and awfulzing”
This is when we emotionally exaggerate and blow things out of proportion. With very little effort, you can turn an everyday hassle into a major tragedy. By challenging and disputing your exaggerated thinking, you can begin to look at the situation differently.
2. Cut out your “What-if-ing”
“What-if-ing” is taking a situation or event that could happen and make it into something that probably will happen. You may be what-if-ing, when you say to yourself, for example: ”what if I’m kidnapped…or “what if get hit by a car” In life, many unpleasant things can happen, but the reality is that many, if not most of the things you worry about never happen. You want to ask yourself realistically, “what are the chances of this feared event really happening?”
When you overgeneralize, you create a distorted image of what is really happening, and create a reality that invites excessive anxiety. By thinking in terms of all or nothing, good or bad, right or wrong, you create unnecessary upset. Some examples of overgeneralizations are: “I always have to do everything by myself…”, “You never listen.” To help you curb any tendency to overgeneralize, look out for language that reflects—words like “always” and “never.” Find the gray areas and spare yourself a lot of stress.
4. Stop “mind reading” and “conclusion-jumping”
You mind read and conclusion-jump whenever you believe that you know something as true, when in fact, it may not be true at all. An example of mind reading and conclusion-jumping is; “you see a brown spot on the back of your hand and conclude it’s a terminal disease.” We usually do not have enough information or data to come to a conclusion with any degree of certainty. To challenge this irrational thought ask yourself: “do I really have enough evidence to support my beliefs?”
5. Curb your unrealistic expectations
Things often don’t work out the way you’d like to them to. Be realistic in what you expect. For example, you arrive at your doctor’s office at ten minutes to 3:00pm, ready for your 3:00pm appointment, try not to expect that promptly at three a nurse will emerge and say “follow me please, the doctor is ready to see you..”
6. Stop “self-rating”
Whenever you equate your self-worth with your performance and the approval of others, you’re self rating. The reality is, there are many times in life when you will not do as well as you would like, when your performance will be less than stellar, and you will not get the approval of others. By making your worth contingent others, you become vulnerable to anxiety. Giving up this self rating tendency is not easy, but you have to recondition yourself to ask questions such as: Do I really need the approval of others to feel good about myself? “Do I really have to be better than others to feel good about myself?”
Our thinking errors cause anxiety when we are unaware of them and they control the way we experience situations. We have the power and ability to change our thinking patterns. The goal is to be aware of our thinking and replace them with realistic thoughts. With a lot of effort and practice you can notice changes and feel less anxious as you experience your world in a more peaceful and positive way.