How To Combat Negative-Self Talk

This year has brought about many challenges that have left many people feeling anxious and overwhelmed. It’s easy to get weighed down by the weight of the world, and although it’s normal to have negative thoughts, negative thinking patterns, also known as cognitive distortions, can become problematic.

Cognitive distortions can lead to or worsen negative emotions, anxiety, and depression, so it’s crucial to not only be able to identify these thinking patterns, but also to know how to combat them. This post, which includes a visual from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences, discusses what cognitive distortions are and offers specific ways you can retrain your brain to think more positively.

What are Cognitive Distortions?

Cognitive distortions are thoughts that cause individuals to inaccurately view reality. These negative thinking patterns often make us believe things that simply are not true. Being able to recognize cognitive distortions is the first step in combating negative self-talk.

Below are five common thinking patterns.

  1. Mental Filter: You fixate on a single negative detail of a particular situation. E.g., my brother didn’t sing happy birthday along with everyone else.
  2. Discounting the Positive: You minimize or reject the positives. E.g., since I only went to the gym twice this week instead of four times like I had planned, I’m a failure.
  3. Jumping to Conclusions: Without sufficient information, you conclude how a situation will end up or how someone else feels. E.g. I’m going to mess up my presentation because I always ruin everything.
  4. Magnification/Minimization: You magnify or minimize the importance of something. E.g., I burned dinner last night so I’m a terrible cook.
  5. Labeling: You label yourself or others based on an event. E.g. my friend canceled our plans because she thinks I’m boring.

How to Retrain Your Brain

The good news is that you can curb negative thinking patterns and even retrain your brain to think more positively. Actively working to change harmful thinking patterns is important, as constantly interpreting and processing information in a negative way can be harmful to mental health. Taking control of your thoughts and working to reduce negative self-talk can help you feel more empowered and prepared to face difficult challenges.

The visual below from the University of St. Augustine for Health Services looks at more common thinking patterns and offers ways to retrain your brain.

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