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A Breakdown Of Our Mental Health: Negative Thoughts And Cognitive Bias

Yes, our thoughts are messy. We have over thousands of thoughts per day; how can our minds not be messy? Often, we have negative thoughts. They fuel a lot of negativity, stress, and strife for us. We can be remarkably familiar with these unhealthy thoughts, particularly once we become mindful of them.

We humans are smart and complex creatures but can be very simple-minded when it comes to formulating and making sense of our thoughts. We can draw conclusions very quickly, often with little factual evidence, if at all. We want to make sense of a situation very quickly, and because of that, we may overlook a lot of what we need to draw a sound conclusion. This leads to very biased thinking. For example, the next time we compare ourselves to others on social media, think again about how little we see – a simple snapshot of a person. What about all the other times of that person’s life? What do other people see, and what do they not see? Many people are not inclined to document the more negative or difficult moments of their lives. How is a sound conclusion drawn about a person after witnessing a simple snapshot? It can be safe to say that we never truly know what goes on in another person’s world in their entirety.

Why Negative Thoughts Persist

We may have filtered thoughts, to only focus on the negatives of a situation, leaving out everything else. There may have been a few positive moments in there, but these are left out completely, almost forgotten like it never existed. These are moments when we only view and feel the negativity, even if it may have only been a small aspect of what we experienced overall. Perhaps after a workplace presentation, there were many colleagues that came to praise you, but there was one that did not agree with the others. It could be that this experience was viewed negatively overall, raising anxiety and self-doubt within you.

We can also have thoughts that are irrational, being unrealistic in nature. We can catastrophise and think the worst of a situation, ruminate, or even have thoughts that are not entirely based on reality. You have a friend that you message back and forth. You notice that they are not messaging back as often, and you think the worst – they do not like me, they hate me. Think again on whether this thinking is based on reality? Perhaps at that time, we may not know what is going on in the other person’s life. The same situation can be viewed from different perspectives, and it may not be that our initial thought is in fact, the truth.

So why am I talking so much about thoughts? Our thoughts can really drive us. Referencing the cognitive theory, which can be used in therapy, the thought-feeling-behaviour connection is learned. How we learn about our unhelpful thoughts causing negative feelings, and in turn, unhealthy behaviour. We can replace this by enhancing our self-awareness, have more helpful and healthier thoughts, which can then have a more positive impact on our feelings and behaviour.

This can help to build our resilience – the process of adapting well when facing adversity or significant stressors. Being resilient is not black and white, like a switch you can turn on or off. Resilience and awareness take time, effort, constant practice, and motivation. It is possible for all of us to work towards, no matter how impossible you may think it is.

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