Challenging Unhelpful Thinking Habits

Are you a mind reader? Can you predict the future? Do you just know that the worst is going to happen?

If so, then the chances are that you are under the influence of some unhelpful thinking habits. The trouble with unhelpful thinking habits is that they’re easy to fall into but, because what you think is what you feel, they can have a negative impact on your state of mind.

In this post I’m taking a look at some of the more common unhelpful thinking habits, how you can recognise them and stop them from wreaking havoc on your well-being.

Once you can identify your unhelpful thinking styles, you can start to notice them. By noticing them, you can begin to challenge or distance yourself them and see the situation in a different and more helpful way.

Here are my top 10 of negative thinking habits. I wonder which ones you’ll spot?:

Catastrophising: When we imagine, believe and expect that the worst possible thing will happen. I’m sure you know this feeling!
Say to yourself: OK, thinking that the worst possible thing will definitely happen isn’t really helpful right now. What’s most likely to happen?

Mental Filter: This is a bit like looking at things through special glasses that only let you focus on negative aspects of a situation and ignore or dismiss all other positive or neutral aspects.
Ask yourself: Am I only noticing the bad stuff? Am I filtering out the positives? Am I wearing those ‘special specs’? What would be more realistic?

Mind-Reading: This is when we assume we know what others are thinking (usually about us!).
Ask yourself: Am I assuming I know what others are thinking? What’s the evidence? Are those my own thoughts? Is there another, more balanced way of looking at it?

Prediction: We often make predictions when we believe we know what’s going to happen in the future.
Ask yourself: Am I thinking that I can predict the future? How likely is it that that might really happen?

Compare And Despair: This is when we see only the good and positive aspects in others, and compare ourselves negatively against them.
Remind yourself: Nobody is all good or all bad. People often only let others see the what they want them to see or exaggerate good things (especially on social media).

Critical Self: This is one lots of us are good at – putting ourselves down, self-criticism, blaming ourselves for events or situations that are not totally our responsibility.
Say to yourself: There goes that internal bully again. Would most people who really know me say that about me? Is this something that I am totally responsible for? What have I done well?

Shoulds And Musts: Thinking or saying ‘I should’ (or shouldn’t) and ‘I must’ puts pressure on ourselves, and sets up unrealistic expectations
Ask yourself: Am I putting more pressure on myself, setting up expectations of myself that are almost impossible? What would be more realistic? Swap ‘I must’ to ‘I want to’.

Evaluations / Judgements: We often make judgements about events, ourselves, others, or the world, rather than describing what we actually see and have evidence for.
Tell yourself: I’m making an evaluation about the situation or person. It’s how I make sense of the world, but that doesn’t mean my judgements are always right or helpful. Is there another perspective?

Black and white thinking: Believing that something or someone can be only good or bad, right or wrong, rather than anything in-between.
Ask yourself: Things aren’t either totally white or totally black – there are shades of grey. Where is this on the spectrum?

Memories: Current situations and events can trigger upsetting memories, leading us to believe that the danger is here and now, rather than in the past, causing us distress right now.
Tell yourself: This is just a reminder of the past. That was then, and this is now. Even though this memory makes me feel upset, it’s not actually happening again right now.

Is it a Fact or just an Opinion?

A good way to deal with all of these unhelpful thinking habits is to ask yourself: ‘is this thought a fact or opinion?

Facts are what we need to focus on in order to make helpful changes. Opinions are just an interpretation of the facts and they drive our emotions. Reacting to our opinions is therefore pointless and upsetting.

It is often meanings or opinions that we attach to facts that cause us the distress, rather than the fact itself. It’s a bit like reading news headlines – an eye catching headline will stop us in our tracks (often one of doom and gloom) but are they a fact or just the journalist’s opinion?

Asking ‘is this fact or opinion?’ helps us to pull back from our distress and defuse from the unhelpful thinking. If we identify our thought is an opinion, then we can look at the facts – what we know about the situation. Then we can make choices about what we can or cannot do.

Are unhelpful thinking habits causing you anxiety or distress? Please get in touch to find out how hypnotherapy can help you. Hypnotherapy works with the subconscious mind to positively influence how we think, and feel and behave, so it can be very effective at helping to challenge unhelpful thinking habits.

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