Posted 2 years ago

Unhelpful thinking styles

Everyone has a voice (or multiple voices!) inside of their head. Whether it’s a constant stream of thoughts, consciousness, images, or a combination of these, we all have an ongoing rumble of information going on between our two ears.

Most of us don’t pay much attention to what’s going on there, or have come to get used to those voices and images, even if the information they’re conveying is potentially detrimental to our wellbeing.

Sometimes, without being fully aware of it, we allow ourselves to live in a headspace where unhelpful thinking styles dominate. There are many different types of unhelpful thinking styles (which I will discuss below, in turn) but the bottom line is that they are not supportive of your overall wellbeing and satisfaction with life, nor will they help you on your journey to become an elite version of yourself.

Do you recognise yourself using any of the following?

Unhelpful thinking styles

Mental filter: this refers to situations in which we focus solely on a small piece of information from a situation – which is typically negative – disregarding the full picture.

Jumping to conclusions: this refers to situations in which we make assumptions about others or engage in “mind reading” which is inevitably detrimental for us.

Personalisation: refers to instances where we blame ourselves for events we had no control over, and end up carrying that additional burden and self-blame with us, impacting on our mental wellbeing.

Catastrophizing: as the name would suggest, this refers to taking one localised event and completely blowing its consequences out of proportion, which can lead to us experiencing a high level of associated anxiety, as we might perceive that “small” events are very much the end of the world.

Black and white thinking: this is a very common way of thinking, particularly when it comes to health and fitness. We all seem to think that with one small mistake we’ve messed up our whole journey, when this is very much not the case!

Shoulding and musting: this unhelpful use of language can lead us to creating extremely rigid rules, full of judgement, around our journey. If you aim for perfection, you’ll never be good enough but if you aim for good enough you will always accomplish that!

Overgeneralising: this is often seen in weight-loss journeys, where you may have not been successful in the past but a small lapse leads you to tell yourself that you “always fail, can NEVER lose weight”. Is this true? Consider examining the facts and your interpretation of those.

Disqualifying and/or ignoring the positives: there is such a thing as being overly humble, which is often associated to low self-esteem (or British culture!). You may find yourself watering down positives such as brushing off a weight-loss compliment by responding that you still have a lot of weight to lose. Don’t downplay the evidence!

So, now that you’ve identified the unhelpful thinking style(s) that you may engage in, ask yourself this:

  • What other ways are there of viewing the situation?
  • If the issue was coming from someone you love and care about, what advice would you give them? How would you respond?
  • And finally, if you wanted to act and respond in a different way to your selected scenarios, how would you have to think differently? What would need to change for you?

Do any of these sound familiar? Are you able to shift your thought patterns to make them more helpful?

If you are someone who struggles with their unhelpful thoughts which affect your feelings and behaviour, and/or would like some more advice on how to modify these to become helpful, get in touch today to book a free coaching consultation call.

Clara Swedlund MSc MBPsS