Common Cognitive DistortionsJul 06, 2022
“I'm a hot mess.”
Okay, sometimes it sure feels that way.
But objectively speaking, it’s just not true.
Statements like, “My entire life sucks” or “I’m never going to be happy” have a name: Cognitive distortions.
Thoughts that feel true, but aren’t.
If you have thoughts like this, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you or that you're a failure.
It's just how our brains work. We naturally tend to over-generalize, make judgments with partial information and over-focus on perceived threats and/or negativity.
So how can we re-wire our brains to not think this way?
We have to adjust our thoughts, keep an open mind and let go.
Easier said than done right?
Here's some examples of cognitive distortions and how to rewire thoughts around them.
All or nothing thinking: I ate two cookies so I might as well give up on healthy eating for the rest of the weekend. Seeing thing in these extremes of it's perfect or it's horrible will set you up for failure. As soon as these thoughts pop into your head say, STOP! Thank yourself for your awesomeness and think about all the positives in your life. You'll never be perfect in the way you show up but showing up is where the magic happens.
Overgeneralization: You take one negative event as a continuing and never-ending pattern of defeat by using words like, “always” and “never. “I sprained my ankle while I was running. I’ll never run properly again.” First step is to identify your thinking patterns. Pay attention to your thoughts, possibly even write them down and notice patterns. Second step is to reframe those thoughts into positive self-talk. Shift from "I'll never." to, "I'll recover." Remember that humans make mistakes and you can get passed those mistakes!
Magnification or minimization: You blow problems or imperfections way out of proportion, or minimize your successes or admirable qualities. “Everyone else has their eating and exercise all figured out. I’m a hot mess.” STOP comparing! While this is a common struggle for many it's one that you MUST ditch if you want to make any progress in your own journey. You're magnetizing your struggles because you're comparing yourself to others when you should only be comparing to you from yesterday. Keep your eyes on your own lane!
Labeling: Instead of saying things like, "I made a mistake." You apply a global label like, "I'm a failure." I'm a loser." "I suck." Instead of, "Ugh, I ate too much pizza. I’m just a worthless, undisciplined failure.” Say to yourself, "Okay I overate but that doesn't make me a failure." Reflect on how you are feeling mentally and physically then set intentions for moving forward. "Eating too much pizza left me feeling a little bloated and full. Next time I'll have 1 or 2 pieces of pizza with salad so I don't feel like this again." Then move on!
Blame: You find fault instead of solving problems. "I can't eat healthy because my family is too picky." "I can't workout because of my kids schedules." Blame prevents learning and growth. When you are constantly blaming others or outside things, you're not accepting responsibility and allowing for growth. Be accountable for your own actions and take necessary steps to change. Talk to your family about the importance of eating healthy for you all and find fun ways to try new recipes or sneak in vegetables. Take inventory of your day by writing down all you do daily and find areas where you can make more time for yourself and your workouts. In other words, take steps to make changes rather than blaming others.
Now that you know these distortions exist (and that they’re normal), the work going forward is to continue to be aware of your thoughts, and notice when they’re distorted.
When your thoughts don’t reflect the complicated sometimes-hard-sometimes-beautiful nature of reality, that’s okay! Use the strategies above to reflect, re-frame your thoughts and grow!
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