Hi…In the previous modules, we looked at the most common types of thinking errors – or as we also describe them – irrational thoughts, and we explored the negative consequences of this type of thinking. We also suggested ways you could counteract each of the types of thinking.
As an overview, now we’ll look at a summary – almost all-encompassing – the three-step strategy you can use to challenge and change those thinking errors.
First, we’ll look where the thoughts might come from and before moving on to the first step in the three guides for dealing with these negative thoughts.
Where do these irrational thoughts come from?
Our environment – and specifically the people we most associate with – have a significant impact on how we think.
We also tend to develop thinking patterns early in life and so our parents, carers, and family can have a big influence, as can our closest friends, associates, school, teachers and significant others.
Some people grow up in families where mainly negative and critical comments were the norm.
If parents tend to be hypercritical and negative of life in general, this will rub off on their children at an early age.
The good news is you can change that way of thinking – whatever your age.
For other people, the cause of negative thinking may be more immediate.
For example, a major life event like the loss of a job, death of a loved one, divorce, financial setback, social isolation, relationship conflicts – or any other potential stressful issue may be related to health, work, money or family.
Any of these may trigger negative thinking.
In all of these cases, if the negative thinking became ‘the norm’ it puts people at risk of feeling depressed – the depression may cause further negative thinking and so the downward spiral continues.
Whether negative thinking starts before depression or is caused by depression, it can have a very big influence on your experience of the world.
This type of thinking also increases the negative impact of difficult and challenging life situations and can make people more sensitive to emotional pain.
So how can you minimise or eliminate your negative thoughts? As promised, here’s our three-step guide which consists of
- Dispute & challenge and
- Preparing for trigger situations
Let’s start with…
STEP 1 Awareness
Recognising your negative thoughts – & the ABC strategy:
As with all the modules in the MYND-APP, and I keep repeating this – self-awareness is a crucial first step in change and self-improvement.
This sounds obvious and so easy but it’s probably the hardest step. The fact you’re listening to this audio means you’re willing to take that step.
Negative thinking can be so habitual, quick and automatic that people don’t even realise they’re doing it. It’s important, therefore, to learn to become aware of that negative thinking as it occurs. This takes some effort and it’s a useful exercise when you have these thoughts to first acknowledge them and then start to challenge them, and we’ll come onto that in a while.
A strategy to help to identify negative thinking is to fill out a thought diary over the course of a week. Every time your mood sinks a little, ask yourself:
‘What was going through my mind just then?’
Write it down!! Then make a note of the emotions you were feeling. Keep recording your thoughts – maybe you’ll notice patterns and the same kind of thoughts happening over and over again – you might want to put a mark beside thoughts that keep repeating themselves.
This will help you identify the most common kinds of negative thinking that you do – remember the list of most common types of error-thinking we ran through in the previous modules.
This approach might not work for you, so you don’t necessarily have to write down your thoughts, but you do need to make a conscious effort to identify when you have them and what they do to your mood.
Another strategy and one you’ll be brave to employ is to simply ask some people close to you how often you use negative talk.
This is a good indicator as it will reflect your negative thoughts. What they say may surprise you but it will certainly help you become more aware.
I know a number of people who speak so negatively every time we meet – they cannot realise that they are making nine negative comments and one neutral one in most conversations – the world is bad, their work is bad, everyone owes them something…
Not a great place to be. And you could find yourself engaging in a competitive negative thinking battle – so
“if you think you’ve got it bad to listen to what happened to me!”
When you start to become aware of unhelpful thinking, you may feel tempted to criticise yourself.
“How could I think such stupid thoughts?”
Don’t – these thoughts are more common than you expect – simply learn to deal with them and change your mindset.
Remember, depression causes you to criticise yourself, and recognizing unhelpful thinking gives you one more way to beat yourself up.
Instead, remind yourself that unhelpful patterns of thinking may have been learned over a long period of time and the habit may take some effort and time to break.
You are not alone having unhelpful thoughts – most people have them. And they can lead to a bleaker outlook on life.
Let us look at The ABC process
A useful way to approach these thoughts is the A-B-C process –
That’s the Activity – belief, and consequence of what happens and how you respond.
A stands for Activation or the Activity that brings a thought on. Someone says something you don’t like for example – or you mess up at something you value.
The B is the Belief about what happens – so in the case where it could be “no one likes me’ or “I always mess up when it counts” and
C is the Consequence of that thinking – so you end up feeling bad, sad, weepy or any other negative mood because of the meaning you attached to the thought.
In this module, we’ve looked at where our negative thinking patterns come from and saw how our environment and in particular, the people we surround ourselves with, are the biggest influencers. We may end up thinking and having very similar views as those we associate with most. So be careful who you mix you – and don’t be constantly drawn into that negative mindset
In the next module
In the next module, we look at the final two steps in our three-step guide – challenging and disputing your thought and then preparing yourself for these trigger moments.
Your MYND activity
We’ve seen that negative and irrational thoughts are habitual thinking patterns
From now on don’t just think thoughts – think about the thoughts you have in response to events and situations that upset you or perhaps cause you some stress.
Start using the ABC process we described
– the activating and potentially stressful event
– your belief about what happened and this could be things like – ‘no one likes me’ ‘Im no good at this; and so on…
and as a result of this belief the C – a consequence of having that belief
so It could be you feel low confidence, angry or frustrated …in the next module we take a look at the next step – what you do to counteract these negative thought patterns
see you in the next module