How Your Brain Tricks You Into Negative Thinking

From Above the Noise.

Ever find yourself in a negative thinking spiral? Of course you have! It’s human nature. Cognitive distortions aka thinking traps– are basically exaggerated or irrational negative thought patterns that can lead us to believe things that aren’t necessarily true. In this video, Myles Bess breaks down some common thinking traps and some tips on how to manage these this type of thinking. Co-produced with Common Sense Education in collaboration with Center for Digital Thriving at Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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**What are cognitive Distortions?
Cognitive distortions aka thinking traps are mental shortcuts that our brains take to help us process the world around us. They tend to be negative and irrational thought patterns– and engaging in this type of thinking is totally common and just the way our brains work. One theory for why we tend to think in this way is that we are programmed for survival, and focusing on worst-case scenario thinking has an evolutionary advantage. But when left unchecked cognitive distortions can contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression.

**What are some common cognitive distortions?
Psychologists have identified many different cognitive distortions, but this video focuses on these five:
All or nothing thinking – with all-or-nothing thinking there’s no room for nuance– things are usually all bad or all good and you aren’t able to see the middle ground. If your thoughts have words like “never” “all” “always” “everyone” or “no one” you might be engaging in all-or-nothing thinking
Labeling – Labeling is when you put a negative label on yourself– I’m an idiot, I’m a loser, etc.
Mind-Reading – Mind-reading is when you think you know what another person is thinking or why they behaved in a certain way. One little action can get totally blown out of proportion.
Negative Filter – Negative filter happens when you only focus on the negative thing and ignore all the positives of a situation.
The Fallacy of Shoulds – The fallacy of shoulds describes when you make up random, arbitrary, or unreasonable rules for yourself. Like, in order to be a good friend I should reply to my friend’s text right away– and if I miss a text then I’m a bad friend.

**What are some tips to help challenge cognitive distortions?
There’s a whole field of therapy dedicated to helping people identify, and process thinking traps as an intervention for things like PTSD, eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. It’s called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (or CBT). However, just recognizing these types of thoughts can go a long way in helping you deal with them. To help you begin to recognize these thoughts– psychologists recommend watching tv and identifying when characters engage in that type of thinking. Once you recognize the thought, you can try to search for evidence that goes against that thought or come up with alternative thoughts to the thought you are having.

Selected Sources:
How to Recognize and Tame Your Cognitive Distortions (Harvard Health),cut%20down%20our%20mental%20burden

Cognitive Distortions: Unhelpful Thinking Habits (Psychology Tools),cognitive%20behavioral%20therapy%20(CBT)

CBT for Teens: How Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Works (Newport Academy)

Cognitive Distortions: 22 Examples and Worksheets (Positive Psychology)

15 Cognitive Distortions to Blame for Negative Thinking (Psych Central)

The Evolved Basis and Adaptive Functions of Cognitive Distortions a (British Journal of Medical Psychology

0:00 Intro
0:53 What are thinking traps?
2:17 All or Nothing Thinking
3:28 Labeling
3:51 Mind reading
4:38 Negative Filter
5:38 Fallacy of Shoulds
6:43 Tips for reframing cognitive distortions

#cbt #mentalhealth