Most of the times, we are open about our physical health, but how often do we seriously consider our mental well-being?
Many of us lead busy, often hectic lives, so it is easy to experience certain levels of stress and anxiety that have an adverse impact on our thoughts, efficiency, emotional well-being and overall health.
Thinking is basically a mental process; which helps one define, organise, plan, learn, reflect and create experiences. In-fact human beings think at the rate of 1300 to 1800 words per minute according to a study. This explains why our mind wanders even when we are listening to others. One’s mind has all kinds of fleeting thoughts passing at any particular time. Day to day stressors add on to the kind of thoughts we have and are also one of the reason of we having unpleasant and irrational thoughts that don’t serve us any purpose.
Thoughts on their own will not affect one’s destiny, but if one spends time dwelling upon the unpleasant thoughts, surely then they impact one’s life in every kind of way. The prolonged periods of unpleasant mental state can be detrimental to your mental health and hinder you from performing to your maximum potential. So a lot depends on your ability to think correctly in certain stressful situations and unexpected life situations. Correct thinking is only possible if done so consciously and on purpose. Most of the times it is your beliefs that influence how you think. When you hold on to certain beliefs that don’t serve your interest or values, they give rise to unpleasantness which in turn hurts your ability to be rational, happy and successful.
Your beliefs shape your thoughts
Your beliefs have an impact on how you think, feel and act most of the time. The emotions we feel and the behaviours that arise from emotions are due to the beliefs that we hold about ourselves, people and environment around. Our beliefs shape our interpretations and how we evaluate certain situations and occasionally, due to certain limited beliefs we hold of ourselves, our thoughts can be distorted, biased, or negative thereby giving rise to irrational thought patterns and negative moods.
Because of such irrational thought patterns, we interpret the facts through a distorted perspective and create the impression that imaginary scenarios represent actual facts. If you hold onto negative beliefs, you tend to worry about things that are unlikely to happen. Such biased thinking affects your communication with others, your emotional/ mental well-being as well as your perceptions. Inability to perceive reality accurately leads to errors in your thinking and causes cognitive bias. These biases make you think in a very exaggerated and irrational ways, causing fear, anxiety, and insecurity. Because one’s thinking is so firmly associated with one’s beliefs, it’s not easy to change one’s thinking pattern unless you put in the required work to reframe your limited beliefs.
So, how do you deal with your irrational thinking?
Our minds constantly create narratives as they are pattern making machines. We always like to process facts through our minds and build association that seem to have a logic or rationale behind them. In doing so, we become victims of certain beliefs that aren’t logical, rational, or accurate representation of facts. This is one of the reason why we think in an exaggerated and irrational way about ourselves at times by giving into our negative beliefs. In some ways, our brains get wired to make these errors every now and then making ‘distorted’ or ‘faulty’ thinking patterns.
It is possible to modify your irrational thought patterns by being able to recognise what you are perceiving, assuming, and expecting. Being aware of your irrational thoughts and learning to reframe or restructure them with rational thoughts can be helpful especially when you are in situations that cause anxiety or depression or stress. It is important to learn that situations are not always the cause of our irrational thinking, but it is the way we perceive and interpret the situations. Interpreting the relevant facts of the situation effectively to come to rational conclusions can help in eliminating some of your false assumptions about yourself.
By restructuring your thoughts and reframing the way you interpret a situation, you can deal with your irrational thoughts and slowly make progress towards rational thoughts that are more empowering.
How to reframe your irrational thoughts and limiting beliefs ?
The essential idea behind reframing is that a point of view depends on the frame it is viewed in. When the frame is shifted, the meaning changes and thinking and behaviour change along with it. Cognitive restructuring or reframing helps in observing, identifying and modifying irrational thoughts to rational thoughts and negative mental patterns to positive ones. By reframing, you can think constructively and can practice accurate thinking. You can reframe your limited beliefs to new beliefs that better serves you and your goals. Constructive reframing also helps in overcoming certain mood disorders, anxiety, stress or depression. It is about reorganising thoughts, ideas, awarenesses into correct perspective and putting them into practice. Here are some ways to practice cognitive reframing of your limited beliefs.
Familiarise yourself with cognitive errors
When you learn to familiarise yourself with certain errors in your thinking and cognitive biases, you can challenge your limiting beliefs and eliminate negative thoughts. Here are some examples of cognitive errors which leads to irrational thinking.
• Downplaying the importance of a positive thought or emotion or event thereby magnifying the negatives like “useless”, “ failure”, or “inadequate.”
• Drawing conclusions when there is little or no evidence or on the basis of perceptions and not on real facts.
• “Making mountain of a molehill” Blowing things out of proportion.
• Using words like ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘everyone’, ‘all’, ‘nobody’, etc.,
• Emotional reasoning – concluding that your emotional reaction proves something true, regardless of the observed facts.
•Perfectionism – Thinking that you always have to be perfect, sating “should”, or “ must.”
• Thinking there are only two possibilities, when there may be other alternatives you haven’t considered.
•Overgeneralisation – making conclusions based on a single event.
• Attributing personal responsibility for events which aren’t under your control.
• Thinking in extremes like “black-and-white” or “all-or-nothing thinking” (all good or all bad with no middle ground)
Practice noticing when you have these distortions in your thinking and ask yourself what other ways you could think. By being aware of these errors and reframing them can help you overcome your limited beliefs.
Identify the thoughts that are of wrong perceptions and assumptions. Sometimes emotions make it difficult for you to think logically. The beliefs that we hold change how we manage our day-to-day experiences. Examine what are your negative beliefs and which emotions are involved and question how valid they really are. By questioning your negative beliefs and looking for alternatives, you can replace thoughts led by fear with realistic and positive thoughts. Replace obstructive and limiting thoughts with positive and empowering thoughts.
Track the accuracy of a thought
Analyse what the pros and cons of your limiting thoughts and beliefs. Evaluate the evidence for or against your irrational thought. Examine the validity of irrational thoughts and beliefs by asking critical thinking questions like what’s the worst possible and what’s the best possible thing of that thought. Once you narrow down to your irrational belief, you can think of a way to reframe it into more accurate and positive belief. Do not make up super unrealistic beliefs, instead find more positive way to frame a belief without deluding the facts of the situation.
Apply alternative views
There are always multiple perspectives to any given situation or circumstance. When you restructure your beliefs, you can look at the same facts through a new perspective and interpret in a way that can keep you motivated. By changing your perspective, you can make out your previous thinking errors and can transform them into rational thoughts. This way, you can discover the best way to view a situation so that it brings out your best possible self.
Avoid using extreme language
Often while expressing a negative belief or thought, we use exaggerated words like “never”, or “always”, or “very” and we end up identifying with negativity in ourselves too strongly. Instead, you can replace them with “sometimes”, or “at times”, or a “little”. This way you can downplay the negativity by how you speak about these negative traits by describing them in less intense ways. This way you can leave more room for positivity, improvement, and change. Reframe the way you describe your experiences and memories.
Develop mindful awareness
Simple meditation practice can develop your awareness of negative and irrational thoughts. Focusing your attention on your breath allows you to observe your thoughts as they arise in your mind. Whenever you notice any irrational thought popping, gently bring your attention back to experiencing the sensation of your breathing. Meditation is a great way to train yourself to be mindful of irrational thoughts and beliefs.
Finally, set your own direction and evaluate your progress. There are many ways to reframe any particular situation. And the way you would want to reframe a situation depends on your current goals, values, decisions and choices you make.
Cognitive reframing of your negative beliefs is extremely effective if used properly and consistently. It can help you overcome your limiting beliefs to become happy and successful. Reframing your limiting beliefs takes time and effort to master, but once mastered, you can keep repeating this positive thinking pattern for better results that add value to your goals. Take time to learn how to change your thinking for better and go beyond your limited beliefs and preconceived assumptions. Always remember constructive thinking is a process, one gets better with practice and experience.