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Changing Unhelpful Thinking Styles (Cognitive Distortions)


What are unhelpful thinking styles?

Unhelpful thinking styles refer to patterns of negative thoughts that can lead to emotional distress and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. These thinking styles, also known as cognitive distortions, were first identified by psychologist Aaron Beck in the 1960s.

The term "cognitive distortion" refers to a type of thought process that is biased, irrational, or unrealistic. There are several different types of cognitive distortions, including black-and-white thinking, overgeneralization, catastrophizing, personalization, and emotional reasoning.

Black-and-white thinking, for example, is the tendency to see things in extreme terms, such as "everything is either all good or all bad." Overgeneralization involves making sweeping conclusions based on limited evidence, such as "I always fail at everything." Catastrophizing is the tendency to imagine the worst-case scenario, even when there is no evidence to support it.


You can learn more about other cognitive distortions by downloading our pdf flashcards below.


How Unhelpful Thinking Styles are Formed

Unhelpful thinking styles are often formed in childhood and can be influenced by a variety of factors, including upbringing, trauma, and cultural/societal influences. For example, if we grew up in an environment where mistakes were punished harshly, we may develop a fear of failure and a tendency towards black and white thinking. Traumatic experiences can also shape our thinking styles, leading to catastrophizing or personalization. Additionally, cultural and societal messages can reinforce negative thinking patterns, such as the belief that we must always be perfect or that our worth is tied to our achievements.

How are Unhelpful Thinking Styles detrimental?

Unhelpful thinking styles can have a significant impact on our mental health and well-being. These patterns of thinking can lead to negative emotions, behaviors, and beliefs that can hold us back from achieving our goals and living a fulfilling life.


These thinking styles can be detrimental to mental health because they can cause individuals to perceive situations in a negative light, leading to feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and low self-esteem. Over time, these negative thoughts can become ingrained and automatic, making it difficult to break the cycle of negative thinking.


Importance of changing Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions or unhelpful thinking styles are patterns of thought that can lead to negative emotions, self-defeating behaviors, and mental health problems. These patterns of thinking can be automatic and unconscious. This is why it is important to change these patterns of thinking because they can have a significant impact on our mood, behavior, and overall well-being. By recognizing and challenging cognitive distortions, we can improve our mental health, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase our ability to cope with life's challenges.


Changing these patterns of thinking can also help us to develop more positive and realistic views of ourselves, others, and the world around us. This can lead to greater happiness, success, and fulfillment in our lives.

Here are some additional ways in which changing patterns of thinking can benefit our mood, behavior, and overall well-being:

  • Improved self-esteem: By changing negative thought patterns into positive ones, we can improve our self-esteem and feel better about ourselves.

  • Reduced anxiety and depression: Negative thought patterns often lead to anxiety and depression, but by changing these patterns, we can reduce their impact on our mental health.

  • Healthier relationships: Our negative thought patterns can affect our relationships with others, but by changing them to positive ones, we can improve our interactions and build healthier relationships.

  • Increased motivation: Positive thinking can lead to increased motivation and productivity, allowing us to achieve our goals and feel a sense of accomplishment.

  • Better physical health: Negative thought patterns can have a negative impact on our physical health, but positive thinking can lead to better stress management, improved immune function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

Unhelpful Thinking Styles Treatment

Fortunately, there are ways to overcome unhelpful thinking styles and develop more positive and balanced ways of thinking. Cognitive restructuring and reframing involve challenging our negative thoughts and replacing them with more realistic and helpful ones. Mindfulness and meditation can help us become more aware of our thoughts and feelings, allowing us to observe them without judgment and respond in a more intentional way.


To further build on the idea of changing patterns of thinking, here are some practical steps that can be taken to develop more positive and realistic views:

  • Practice gratitude: Taking a few minutes each day to acknowledge and appreciate the good things in our lives can help shift our focus away from negativity and towards positivity.

  • Challenge negative thoughts: When negative thoughts arise, question their validity and replace them with more positive and realistic ones. This takes practice, but over time it can become a habit.

  • Surround yourself with positivity: Spend time with people who uplift and inspire you. Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.

  • Focus on solutions, not problems: Instead of dwelling on problems, focus on finding solutions. This can help you feel empowered and in control of your life.

  • Practice self-care: Taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally can help you feel more positive and optimistic about life. This can include things like exercise, healthy eating, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring you joy.

By implementing these steps, we can begin to shift our thinking towards a more positive and realistic outlook. This can have a profound impact on our overall well-being, leading to greater happiness, success, and fulfillment in our lives.


Lastly, cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of therapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns, often using a combination of cognitive restructuring, behavioral interventions, and mindfulness techniques.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment that can help individuals identify and challenge their unhelpful thinking styles. By learning to recognize and replace negative thoughts with more positive and realistic ones, individuals can improve their mental health and well-being.


Download our Unhelpful Thinking Styles PDF!

If you are looking to improve your mental health and overall wellbeing, Flowerchild777 Destination Wellness Unhelpful thinking styles PDF is a must-have guide for you. This PDF is designed to help you identify and challenge your negative thinking patterns, also known as cognitive distortions. The worksheets will also walk you through cognitive distortions from a CBT-based approach and help you understand the main cognitive distortions that are causing problems in your life. By learning to recognize these unhelpful thinking styles, you can begin to reframe your thoughts in a more positive and productive way.

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