Let’s admit it; our brains are not perfect when it comes to decision making. Our brain often makes many cognitive distortions which affect the decisions and judgments that we make. These cognitive distortions or thinking mistakes that could prove to be harmful to our personal and professional lives. Moreover, these could also negatively impact our mental health.
So, we have compiled ten common cognitive distortions or thinking mistakes here, so that you may identify and rectify them in time. Read on:
1. Unrealistic categorization
It is analogous to marking something as either black or white without recognizing the shades of grey in between. You may tend to categorize things into two distinct groups. They could be either:
- Good or bad
- Positive or negative
- Success or failure
This way of thinking could prove costly for you in certain situations. For instance, if you simply label people as ‘bad,’ you won’t consider some positive traits they possess. In turn, you could lose out on developing meaningful relationships with people. This type of cognitive distortions is not only unrealistic but unnecessary too. It is like putting too much negative energy when it is not required.
2. Believing you can read minds
This cognitive distortion may trick you into thinking that you can read minds. Beware of this thinking mistakes, as you surely cannot. You may at times feel you know what is going on in the other person’s mind. Making guesses is fine unless they don’t start affecting your mood and your decisions. You may feel that your professor found you clumsy and sloppy during your presentation.
But remember that it is conjecture and do not let this thought ruin the entire day for you. Again, the key is not to focus on something unnecessarily as it is certainly not required.
3. Making a mountain out of a molehill
There are times when we all tend to overthink. By doing so, your brain may label a simple failure as a disaster. You may feel you will end up failing a course just because you failed a class quiz. Remind yourself that it is not the end of the world and there will be many other opportunities to improve your current situation. You should keep in mind that:
- One negative thought can start a chain of such thoughts.
- And thus, it can be your thoughts and not your situation, that may prove to be disastrous.
4. Unnecessary comparisons
The most common cognitive distortion is that we have all fallen prey to comparing ourselves with others. Maybe your friend just bought a new house, and you are still living in a rented apartment. Feel happy for the accomplishments of others, and do not feel inferior in front of them. It may be that they’ve been lucky and had certain advantages along the way. Do not feel demotivated and continue to strive towards your own goals. Remember, you define your own path to success.
Also, everyone’s path of success is different so instead of focusing on why others have something, and you don’t, focus on how you can achieve your goals and fulfill your dreams. Try to avoid this thinking mistake as it will make your self-feel bad and depressed.
5. Focusing on the negatives
There are so many of us who will exclaim that they have had a bad day just because of one negative thing that happened to them. We will ignore the five positive things that happened to us throughout the day. Some may feel they have failed on a project after receiving feedback which included some criticism. This type of cognitive distortion can prove to be detrimental as you will be channelizing your entire focus on the negatives. Broaden your thinking to reflect on both, the positives and the negatives.
This way you will develop a more balanced approach to analyze your situation. Feel good about the positive aspects and work towards eliminating the negative ones.
6. Generalizing situations
Many times, our brains generalize situations. According to this cognitive distortion, we feel that what happened once, applies to each similar situation. For instance, you may have once forgotten a few lines during a presentation.
But don’t let your brain fool you into thinking that you will always forget something when speaking in front of an audience. It happened once does not mean it will keep on happening. Get these fears out of your minds. Remember that the circumstances of each situation are different. Carefully analyze them and plan your approach.
7. Taking everything personally
It is very easy for our brains to attach personal thought to every situation. You may feel your boss spoke sternly with you as he was unhappy with your performance. But do not draw conclusions so quickly.
There could be many reasons behind someone’s behavior, and it always does not have to be personally linked with you! Never overthink as it can easily turn favorable situations into unfavorable ones. So, don’t allow your brain to make this cognitive distortion.
8. Irrational expectations
Some of us have fixed expectations for others. We expect others to behave precisely as we had anticipated. And if they don’t, then we start to have ill feelings towards them. Be flexible and realize that people cannot behave exactly by your wishes. Expecting too much can prove to be a disaster as you will never be satisfied. Even if you expect, keep it rational, please!
9. Emotions control your decisions
There are times when we let our feelings overpower our thoughts. You might be considering shifting to another city for better job prospects. But you end up deciding not to just because you feel ‘too scared’ to do so. For avoiding this thinking mistake, do a proper cost-benefit analysis so that you take rational and wise decisions.
10. Remaining in the past
You tend to think about your failures in the past constantly. Remember, your present, and not your past will pave the way to success. Plan and strategize so that you may achieve your goals in the future. Having said that, never forget your past but also never let it define you.
Once you identify these cognitive distortions or thinking mistakes, strive towards correcting them. In time, you will not only observe positive changes in your attitude but will also feel mentally stronger.
Watch this 10 Thinking Mistakes Our Brain Makes Every Single Day on YouTube: