By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.
Is your thinking full of bad habits?
It is easy to drift into bad habits. Do something a certain way a few times and that becomes the default setting for your brain. After that, you need to put conscious effort into responding in a different way.
Many times people drift into bad thought habits and from then on having unhelpful thoughts pop into your mind becomes your usual way of thinking. Just because this is the way you always think about things does not make those thoughts true. Your bad thought habits may be making your problems worse and interfering with your having a happy life.
There are 11 ways your thinking may be full of bad habits.
1. Thinking it is all about you, personalizing.
If you walk into the room and people laugh you might think they were all talking about you. When someone is short or curt with you, do you think they are being disrespectful? Many times in life when someone ignores us or is less than helpful it has nothing to do with us. One of the great lessons of growing up is that most of the time other people are just too preoccupied with their own lives and problems to give you a second thought.
2. You magnifying mind blows things out of proportion.
When you think about what could happen, do you imagine the worst possible thing? If your mind can turn a minor inconvenience into the end of the world you have trained your thinking to be a magic magnifying mind.
You went on a date, you liked that other person and they said they would give you a call. But the next day comes and goes and no call. You are now convinced that they will never call, that you will never meet that special someone and that you will live the rest of your life alone. When they call an hour later you are now so bummed out from ruminating about this life alone you just don’t want to talk to them and you do not answer the phone.
There are lots of variations to this thought pattern. It rains for a few minutes and you are sure it will flood, you get stuck behind a truck and are sure you will be late to work and get fired. In each scenario, your mind leaps from a small problem to a happy-life threatening outcome.
3. Minimizing, discounting the positive.
You got ninety-nine questions out of a hundred right, but you are upset about the question you missed. Some people find it hard to take credit for the things they do well. The underlying thought here is that you should be perfect and that anything less is not acceptable.
If you can’t take a compliment, or you find it hard to accept credit for what you have done, you may have trained your brain to ignore anything you did well and focus only on the mistakes of life. This can result in a pretty bleak, discouraging way of looking at things.
4. Either Or, Black and White thinking, means you are either a winner or a loser.
High achievers are at extra risk for this one. If you have trained your brain to go for being the best at everything it can be hard to accept the size of the achievement that a second place might be.
Do not let your brain cheat you out of enjoying an accomplishment by insisting you have to be better than everyone else to be worthwhile.
5. Taking events out of context.
So you get the job but all you remember from the process is that you did not have a good answer for one of the questions. One criticism from your partner becomes they “never” like anything you do. You are on vacation for two weeks but the thing you most remember is the traffic jam on the way out-of-town that first day.
If when you think back on past events all you can remember are the rough spots you are falling into making too much of the small things and forgetting the big ones.
6. Jumping to conclusions.
He didn’t return my text right away so that means he does not want to talk to me. You feel a lump somewhere and don’t go to the doctor convinced you must have cancer and only days to live. Many people have developed the habit of jumping over all the possible good outcomes and landing in a pit of pain.
7. Overgeneralizing leads you to bad places.
“I did not get this job” becomes “I will never get a job.” That thought can get you so worked up that you stop looking for work. Believing because something did not go your way once that means you will never achieve your objective, can become the greatest obstacle to progress.
8. Self-Blame, believing you made a mistake so you are stupid, no good.
This mental and verbal self-abuse does not motivate you to work harder. Beating yourself up leads to feelings of helplessness and giving up. You shouldn’t accept this kind of treatment from others. Don’t abuse yourself this way.
9. Are you that good at mind reading?
Do you tell yourself, “When he does that it means — If she loved me she would know.”
Believing others should know what you want and need and then thinking less of them for not reading your mindsets your relationships up for failure. Believing that others should be able to read your mind and anticipate your needs without your voicing them creates misunderstandings.
10. Comparing up, that model or star is better than me.
Comparing yourself to others sets you up for disappointment. There are always people who have more friends on social media and who make more money. To feel better about yourself stop comparing. Especially do not compare yourself in your gardening outfit to someone walking down the red carpet.
11. Catastrophizing is thinking the worst possible outcome will happen.
Do you think “he is late, he probably got in an accident and died?” When things happen that are not to your liking is your first thought that this absolutely must not happen? Catastrophizing is looking for the worst possible outcome and then mentally rehearsing that thought in your head until it demolishes your sanity.
If you are practicing any of these bad thought habits work with someone on changing these unhelpful thoughts to more adaptive ones.
Staying connected with David Joel Miller
Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!
Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.
Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.