10 Tips to Correct Cognitive Distortion

This blog is completely written by David Burns, M.D. from The Feeling Good Handbook

This blog is a follow up to “10 Cognitive Distortions that Lie to You” and will show you how to cope with cognitive distortions. I suggest you read that blog first to get a better idea of how negative patterns of thinking affect us. Check it out here.

1. Identify the Distortion: Write down your negative thoughts so you can see which of the ten cognitive distortions you're involved in. This will make it easier to think about that problem in a more positive and realistic way.

2. Examine the Evidence: Instead of assuming that your negative thought is true, examine the actual evidence for it. For example, if you feel that you never do anything right, you could 'list several things you have done successfully.

3. The Double-Standard Method: Instead of putting yourself down in a harsh, condemning way, talk to yourself in the same compassionate way you would talk to a friend with a similar problem.

4. The Experimental Technique: Do an experiment to test the validity of your negative thought. For example, if during an episode of panic, you become terrified that you're about to die of a heart attack, you could jog or run up and down several flights of stairs. This will prove that your heart is healthy and strong.

5. Thinking in Shades of Gray: Although this method might sound drab, the effects can be illuminating. Instead of thinking about your problems in all-or-nothing extremes, evaluate things on a range from 0 to 100. When things don't work out as well as you hoped, think about the experience as a partial success rather than a complete failure. See what you can learn from the situation.

6. The Survey Method: Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and attitudes are realistic. For example, if you believe that public speaking anxiety is abnormal and shameful, ask several friends if they ever felt nervous before they gave a talk.

7. Define Terms: When you label yourself "inferior" or "a fool" or "a loser," ask "What is the definition of 'a fool'?" You will feel better when you see is no such thing as "a fool" or "a loser”.

8. The Semantic Method: Simply substitute language that is less colourful and emotionally loaded. This method is helpful for should statements. Instead of telling yourself "I shouldn't have made that mistake," you can say, "It would be better if I hadn't made that mistake.”

9. Re-attribution: Instead of automatically assuming that you are “bad”, and blaming yourself entirely for a problem, think about the many factors that may have contributed to it. Focus on solving the problem instead of using up all your energy blaming yourself and feeling guilty.

10. Cost-Benefit Analysis: List the advantages and disadvantages of a feeling (like getting mad when your plane is late), a negative thought (like “No matter how hard I try, I always screw up”), or a behaviour pattern (like overeating and lying in your bed when you’re depressed). You can also use the Cost-Benefit Analysis to modify a self-defeating belief such as “I must always try to be perfect”.

When nothing seems to help, take a moment and just breathe in and out. Say a prayer to Jesus and just say “Lord help me to see myself the way You see me.” I am praying for you.