10 Tips on How to Transform How You Feel by Crushing Your Limited Thoughts
(Adapted from Thoughts & Feelings Workbook, by Mckay, Davis, & Fanning)
Limited thinking patterns are usually behind our anxiety and depression symptoms. They tend to distort our perception of our experiences, therefore affecting how we see ourselves and our relationships. We all experience at least 1 of these thinking patterns once in a while. The more aware we are of these, the more empowered we feel to not let them distort our emotional experience and our relationships.
What happens when we aren’t aware of our limited thinking patterns?
- We develop symptoms of anxiety, such as overthinking, worrying, and avoiding
- We develop symptoms of depression, such as isolation, low self-esteem, and excessive guilt
- Our relationships are negatively affected (trust is chipped away)
- Our emotional growth is stunted because we become scared to engage
- We fall victims of perfectionism and procrastination
In my work as a therapist I often hear women report feeling stuck in a negative cycle, unaware of why and how to break it. Some are finding themselves angry, holding on to past offenses, feeling insecure, and imagining that the worst case scenarios are likely to happen to them. Behind these feelings of feeling trapped we often find limited thinking patterns and beliefs.
When we are able to identify these thoughts and beliefs we are in a position to take back control, liberate ourselves from patterns that are keeping us trapped, and make transformative changes in how we feel and how we relate to others.
In Thoughts and Feelings by McKay, Davis, and Fanning, we find a list of 8 limited thinking patterns (filtering, polarized thinking, overgeneralization, mind reading, catastrophizing, magnifying, personalization, and shoulds) and their antidotes to mitigate them. Based on this information, here are my tips to transform how we feel (and our relationships) by crushing our limited thinking:
1. Pay attention to your thinking patterns (listed above) when you feel anxious, depressed, or are having repetitive problems in your relationships.
2. Capture these thoughts and crush them using the antidotes (ideas listed below).
3. If you’re focusing on the negative, shift focus to either coping or the positive.
4. If you’re stuck in black/white, either/or thinking, try to think in percentages.
5. If you’re jumping to conclusions based on a single incident, ask yourself, “What’s the Evidence?”
6. If you think you know what people are feeling, thinking, and why they behave the way they do, check it out by asking questions/being curious to confirm or reject your theory.
7. If you’re expecting disaster, ask yourself, “What if the opposite happens?”
8. If you’re exaggerating the intensity of a problem, replace it with the affirmation, “I got this.”
9. If you’re assuming everything is about you, acknowledge we are all unique and have our own weaknesses and strengths.
10. If you have rules about how you and everyone should act, practice being flexible.
Did you identify with any of the above thinking patterns? Try these tips out this week and notice how much better you feel and how much better your interactions with others go! Like anything else, it takes awareness and practice.
Natalie Jimenez, LMFT Bilingual Clinician offering Telehealth in FL & NJ