Did you know that one of the number one causes of anxiety and depression is how we think? Yes, there are loads of external triggers for anxiety and depression and sometimes there are physiological causes of anxiety and depression, but for the majority of my clients, I have found that when we unpack their thought patterns, the noise in their head about their situation, and the way they talk to themselves, we find that understanding how we think can dramatically impact our mood, anxiety level, and depression.
In the therapy world, we say “ Your mind believes what you tell it” and it’s true. Did you know that the average person has over 6,000 thoughts per day? Let that sit for a minute, 6000 thoughts. If the average person has 6,000 thoughts per day, can you imagine how many thoughts an anxious person has?
If we know we are always thinking can you imagine the value in understanding the way we think and how it affects how we feel and behave?
How do you observe your thinking style? The first step is identifying disruptive or unhelpful thinking styles. These are the thinking patterns psychologists have found have the most negative impact on self-perception, mood, anxiety levels, and depression. Let’s take a look.
Black or White Thinking: Something is either 100% good or bad I’m a terrible mother because I’m not perfect, My relationship is ruined because we had a disagreement
Overgeneralizing: Seeing a pattern based on one event, drawing conclusions based on singular events Nothing good ever happens
Catastrophizing: Jumping to the worst conclusion she didn’t wave at me, we must not be friends anymore
Personalization: Blaming yourself for a circumstance or blaming others for events that were your fault. This is all your fault, I never do that
Mental Filter: Part of the inner critic, only seeing certain types of evidence, noticing our failures but not success. I’m a horrible employee, I’m probably going to get fired.
Jumping to Conclusions: Mind reading or jumping to conclusions they think I’m stupid, they don’t like me
Ignoring the Positive: Discounting the positive and focusing on the negative. She brought me flowers but that’s just because she feels guilty
Shoulds and Musts: Shoulds and Musts are critical words that lead to feelings of guilt and a lack of satisfaction with our actions
Labeling: Talking to ourselves in negative ways, I’m a loser, I’m so fat, I’m never going to do well
Low Tolerance for Frustration: Internal dialogue that says I can’t do this, I’m never going to make it, I’m unattractive
If we can identify the way we think, and the way we talk to ourselves we can learn to reframe our thoughts. This is what we call cognitive restructuring and the good news is that if you practice observing and reframing the way you think, you can actually rewire your brain to think in ways that make you feel better.
Give it a try today. Print out this list and observe your thoughts. I promise you that you will identify at least one or all very quickly. That’s okay, we all fall into these thinking patterns. When you catch yourself thinking this way, stop and reframe the thought. This takes practice and commitment but I promise you that if you start making these changes you will find that your perspective changes, anxiety decreases and you feel more present in your interactions with others.