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10 Types of Thoughts That Actually Hurt Your Mental Health

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I know what you’re thinking: “You mean to tell me there is a right and wrong way of thinking?” The answer to that question is no; I just mean there are certain ways we think that sometimes create more problems for us rather than help us. Here are some examples:

1. All-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is just what it sounds like — it is thinking something is either good or bad, that you either pass or fail. It is similar to seeing things in black or white, and not being able to see the gray things, the things that aren’t either good or bad but OK. All-or-nothing thinking leads to putting so much more pressure on ourselves to do well because if we don’t, then it leads to liking ourselves even less than we already might.

2. Overgeneralizing.

Overgeneralizing is quite literally taking one thing that happens and assuming or generalizing it is going to happen for the rest of your life. It is essentially being too general. It is like assuming everyone you will work with are mean just because, one time, a co-worker was mean to you. Overgeneralizing leads us to not giving a lot of things a second chance because of a past experience that did not go well. It stops us from being able to fully experience life.

3. Mental filter.

Having a mental filter means filtering out one type of evidence or another. When we use a mental filter, it is usually filtering out the positive from a certain situation or context and only see the context or situation in a negative light. It is like when we can only see everything we have failed at and not see the clear things we have succeeded at. Mental filters lead to us being down on ourselves a lot more because all we can think about is negative in every situation and not see the things that went well.

4. Disqualifying the positive.

Disqualifying the positive is similar to mental filter because although you are not necessarily filtering out the positive, you are assuming something good only happened or went well because of luck or good fortune. It is like assuming something good happened to you for some reason out of your control and because of that, it doesn’t count. Disqualifying the positive also leads to us not being proud and happy about the good things we do and the good things that happen because we assume it wasn’t due to us in any way.

5. Catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing is making a catastrophe out of something that isn’t. It is blowing things out of proportion or assuming the worst possible outcome as being the only thing that happened or could possibly happen. It is like assuming that because your friend hasn’t arrived to your birthday party that started an hour ago, they were in a car crash. Catastrophizing leads to being stressed out and on edge more often than not because we assume that any time something doesn’t happen just the way it is supposed to, something bad must have happened.

6. Emotional reasoning.

Emotional reasoning means using your emotions to reason things out. It is like assuming our emotional response proves something is true no matter how much evidence there is proving otherwise. It would be like feeling “stupid,” so you have convinced yourself that you are even if you have gotten good grades in all your years of schooling. Emotional reasoning leads to us letting our emotions get in the way of things and make us draw these conclusions that aren’t true.

7. Labeling.

Labeling is putting a label on someone or something. It is judging not only ourselves but others as well, all based on what that person did or how they behaved at a particular time. It is like assuming what someone did is suddenly who they are, rather than knowing their behavior is just something they did and not who they are. Labeling leads us to be negative and therefore talking to ourselves in a negative way. There’s a reason we are not taught negative self-talk and only positive; negative self-talk does nothing good for anyone.

8. Jumping to conclusions.

Jumping to conclusions is reaching a conclusion with little to no evidence proving it to be right. There are two types of jumping to conclusions: mind reading and fortune telling. Again, mind reading and fortune telling are exactly what they sound like. Mind reading is assuming you can read a person’s mind and know what they are thinking or how they are gonna react before anything even happens. Fortune telling is predicting the future and assuming how things are going to play out when you have no idea what is going to happen. Jumping to conclusions leads us to give up on things we otherwise would have tried had we not made assumptions.

9. Personalization.

Personalization is blaming yourself or putting all the responsibility of something happening on yourself when it is not all your fault. It is assuming that you and only you are the reason something happened, and that nothing else came into play to cause that thing to happen. It can also be placing the blame on others for something that is your fault. Personalization leads to not considering other factors that might have influenced the situation, which leads to more harm than good.

10. ‘Should and must’ thinking.

“Should and must” thinking is using statements involving the words “should” or “must.” It is us assuming we have to do or act a certain way. “Should and must” thinking leads to more frequent stress and feeling guilty when we do not successfully fulfill others’ expectations of us. If we got rid of “should and must” thinking, then we would not have to live our lives based on everyone else’s standards. We would be able to decide what we want to do and what we want to be.

In conclusion, if you think in any of these ways, it sucks and it makes things worse than they need to be. But the first step is to realize when you are thinking this way, then to work hard to try and combat those thoughts. Fighting the thoughts is the hardest part, but if you believe in yourself and work towards it, you can do it.

Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Originally published: July 4, 2019
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