Cognitive reframing is the process of shifting your perspective by replacing negative or flawed thought patterns with more positive and realistic ones, which can help improve your mood and mental health. These flawed or negative thought patterns are viewed as cognitive distortions.
If you find yourself in a loop of negative thinking and feel anxious about your situation, it is helpful to reflect on the reasons behind your thoughts and feelings. Once you can identify the cause or causes, it is easier to find a way to break that negative cycle. Becoming aware of your cognitive distortions, those automatic thoughts and thinking patterns, is the first step in the process of cognitive reframing.
Here are some common cognitive distortions:
Filtering – that is, having an exclusive focus on a single negative aspect of your situation or current circumstances. It is when you focus on the negative, and completely miss any of the good associated with the situation.
Polarized thinking – when you believe that something is all good or all bad. Another way to look at this type of thinking is that you see the world in terms of all-or-nothing, black or white – an absence of grey areas.
Overgeneralization – when you come to a broad conclusion based on a single incident or unpleasant event. You make assumptions that whatever the event it will pan out in the same way as it has in the past, even under a different set of circumstances.
Jumping to conclusions – when you make assumptions about someone's thoughts or behavior, without really knowing and understanding the circumstances.
Catastrophizing – sometimes called catastrophic thinking. This is when you foresee disaster; when you continually go to the darkest outcome.
When you are familiar with some cognitive distortions and how they show up in your behaviour and thinking, you can begin to shift your perspective and start the process of cognitive reframing. If you’re not aware of them, it’s impossible to adjust them. Asking yourself questions about your thinking and being mindful of your thought processes, whether positive or negative, is an important step in learning to recognize when they’re occurring.
Once you’re able to recognize cognitive distortions as they arise, you can start questioning whether they’re helpful or reasonable. If they are not, then you can look for ways to reframe negative or problematic thoughts. As you notice these distortions taking hold in your thought processes you may notice some are pervasive in your mindset, this provides the opportunity for you to reframe them with positive results.
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