Do you ever think about your thinking?
Most people don’t – including myself most of the time.
If you stop and take a look at your thoughts, you may be surprised by what is playing through your mind.
Can you believe that we have up to 1,000 thoughts an hour - about 12,000 a day – really!
Of course you can’t be aware of all your thoughts and beliefs, but some of your thoughts may be what is called “common errors in thinking” (Lucinda Bassett) or “cognitive distortions” (Dr. David Burns).
This happens when thoughts get twisted into negative thinking patterns that can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, anger, guilt and even anxiety and depression over time.
Why? Because every thought you have causes a chemical reaction and physical effects. Your belief is your biology!
So if you’re an optimistic person, you tend to have more hopeful, positive thoughts. But if you're more of a glass half empty person, you’ll automatically go to the negative and critical thoughts.
What we focus on grows!
Positive thoughts increase the feel-good hormones such as serotonin and dopamine.
Negative thoughts increase stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Most physical symptoms and doctor’s visits are related to high stress levels.
Many of your thoughts are automatic - it’s like driving – after you’ve done it for a long time – you're on automatic pilot.
If you’re not aware of your thoughts, you can’t change them. They’ll continue to run on automatic pilot. And more than 80% of your thoughts and beliefs are a repeat from the day before and the day before that and so on.
When someone comes to see me in therapy, we often take a closer look at any problematic thought patterns. I hear the negative thoughts pop up all the time and point them out as a first step.
This increases awareness of any negative self-talk. The next step is learning to reframe these negative thoughts and mistaken beliefs into realistic and empowering thoughts. Amazingly, doing this over time, changes your brain chemistry!
Our thoughts are that powerful...
So if you’re motivated to change your thoughts and beliefs, the first step is to tune in and gain an awareness of what your inner dialogue sounds like. Maybe it's time to delete some old ways of thinking?
There are 10 common types of negative self-talk. I’ll talk about one of the common offenders.
It’s called jumping to conclusions or the fortune teller error. This happens if you make a negative interpretation or assumption even though there is no evidence to support the thought. You think about a future event and predict that it will turn out badly. You feel convinced that your prediction is an already established fact.
Unless you’re a psychic, you and I will not know how the future turns out until it actually happens.
But the anxious mind can easily go into protective mode or just make things up - you had a negative thought and a very primitive part of your brain (the amygdala) heard that thought and now believes it’s a proven fact. You thought it, so it must be true.
REFRAMING OR UNTWISTING THE FORTUNE TELLER ERROR
First, bring your thinking into the present time. Ask: is there anything I can do to prepare for this event? Is this thing I'm worried about within my control? If so, do what you can to prepare for the event and let go of the rest (that is - what’s not within your control – such as worrying about other people’s behavior).
Secondly, you can also dispute the thoughts by looking for the evidence that your negative prediction is true. I'm talking about real evidence that you could present in a court of law! Hint: it's hard to find any.
These two steps, help bring logic into the equation. This balances out your thinking. You’re drawing from emotional AND logical mind. You are now thinking from a place called “wise mind.”
And so it is…
I just gave you 2 tips on reframing the fortune teller error. Tell me the one that stood out for you and why in the comments section below.
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Hi! I'm Beth Matthews. I'm a Registered Psychologist who is driven to helping people feel better about themselves. I help people who are struggling in their lives gain an awareness of how they can cope with anything that comes their way. With my easy-to-use strategies, you can feel better and be your best you!