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Have you ever had an experience where out of nowhere your mood just suddenly changes (sad, mad, glad, hopeful, anxious, excited, depressed)?

You have asked yourself – “why am I feeling this way?” “where did these emotions come from?”

Most people believe that whatever happens in their external world is what triggers the new emotions (whether positive or negative).

What’s changing your emotional state is not the external activity that’s happening to you, but rather – it’s what you think and believe about that occurrence.

The good news is once you become aware of your thoughts, they can be controlled and changed.

One simple activity is called the ‘Three Column Technique’:

  1. Situation - briefly describe what you reacted to.
  2. Thoughts - What are you thinking?, What should have happened?, What does this mean?
  3. Feelings - What emotions are you feeling?

For the next month complete the Three Column Technique activity. At the end of that time you will start to identify unhelpful thinking patterns and cognitive distortions.

The 10 most common wrong thinking pathways (cognitive distortions) to be aware of are:

  1. All or nothing thinking: You look at a thing’s absolutes in black and white. If a situation isn’t perfect, then you see it as total failure.
  2. Over-Generalisation: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  3. Mental Filter: You pick out a single negative detail and focus on it exclusively.
  4. Discounting the Positive: You reject positive experiences and say, “they don’t count”.
  5. Fortune Telling: You predict everything will turn out badly.
  6. Magnification: You exaggerate your problems or shortcomings and minimise your good qualities.
  7. Emotional Reasoning: You assume your negative emotions reflect actual reality.
  8. Should” Statements: You tell yourself that things should be a certain way. When what you hoped doesn’t happen, it leads to frustration.
  9. Labelling: This is an extreme form of all or nothing thinking. Instead of just making a mistake, you attach a label to it.
  10. Personalisation: This is when you hold yourself responsible for an event that isn’t totally under your control.

Don’t let these negative and distorted thinking patterns go unchallenged. By being more in control of your thoughts, you will start to see that when something goes wrong, rather than your emotions just flaring up, you can think differently about that situation and therefore feel differently!