Thoughts that go on in our head are ever going and never ending. We spend most of our time within our own minds processing and making sense out of our lives. This provokes the question: Is your mind a safe space?
People’s minds can become unsafe and filled with self-depreciation, anxiety, and negativity. These negative views can be caused by Cognitive Distortions. Cognitive Distortions are faulty thinking patterns that the mind convinces itself to be true.
Common Cognitive Distortions include:
- All-or-nothing thinking– Seeing self and the world in absolutes
- Overgeneralization– Using the outcome of one event and applying to all events
- Magnification or minimization– Focusing on negative qualities and disregarding the positive
- Catastrophizing– Thinking in worst case scenarios
- Labeling and mislabeling– Taking one experience or personal characteristic and defining one’s self by it
- Should statements– Placing unrealistic rules or demands on self or others
- Personalization– Thinking you are responsible for events outside of your control
These distortions can create an unhealthy internal dialogue that directly impacts how we experience the world around us. For example, if we get into the faulty thinking pattern of catastrophizing, then our internal dialogue will flood our minds with fear-based messages, shifting our awareness to all the things that could go wrong, and we will begin living and responding like these fears are already occurring.
The next question that comes to mind is: How does one re-establish safety?
One way in doing this is gaining more awareness of our faulty ways of thinking and that the thoughts may not be grounded in truth. Being able to challenge your thoughts is a vital tool in protecting your mental space. Testing the validity of thought can include identifying facts that support the anxiety or negativity and finding facts that go against the anxiety or negativity. This can allow us to see the whole picture of a situation and combat Cognitive Distortions.
Another way to re-establish safety is changing our own internal dialogue and how we are speaking to ourselves. If you find that your internal dialogue is harsh, extreme, unforgiving, or fear based then retraining thoughts and beliefs could be another helpful tool. Engaging in affirmations work is a way of retraining thoughts and working on having healthy beliefs about self, others, and the world. Affirmations are assertive statements that shift thinking in a positive direction. Examples of affirmations include: “I am enough, I am capable, I deserve happiness”. This is a gentler way of speaking to ourselves that allow us to have increase coping abilities.
Our thoughts are powerful. When our minds are a safe place, we are better able to use that power in a more helpful way that provides us with more support and understanding. It is not an easy process of retraining our thoughts, but practicing the tools previously discuss can reinforce these new patterns of though and how we speak to ourselves each day.