Do you feel stressed or sad?
In 2015 the American Psychological Association reported an increase in adults that reported extreme stress from 18% to 24% in 2015. With the rising levels of stress and mental health problems it has become increasingly important to learn how to deal with mental health issues.
The 3 Principles
According to the cognitive psychologist, and the author of Feeling Good, David Burns, the root of many of our mood and other mental health problems are our negative distorted thoughts. Therefore, he argues that we can improve our mental health and mood by fighting our negative thoughts. His approach to solving mental health problems is based on three principles:
- The first principle is that “all your moods are created by your “cognitions,” or thoughts.” Therefore any emotion, positive or negative, can be traced back to a positive or negative thought.
The moment you have a certain thought and believe it, you will experience an immediate emotional response. Your thought actually creates the emotion.” – Feeling Good
- The second principle is that when you are feeling down most of your thoughts are negative. Therefore the negative thoughts make you feel sad.
- The third principle is that the negative thoughts that cause emotional pain almost always are distorted.
As a result, by identifying the negative thoughts that make us sad we can identify the distortions in the thoughts and eliminate them. This will result in a more positive mood.
Identify your thoughts
The first step in improving your mood would be to identify the corresponding negative thought that you had just before you felt down.
Ex. Just before an exam you might feel depressed because of a thought like “I did bad on my last exam, therefore I will also mess up on this exam and I will fail the exam.”
Identify your mental distortions
The second step in improving your mood would be to identify the distortions in your negative thoughts.
There are 10 main distortions that David Burns describes in his book.
|All- or –Nothing Thinking||You think in terms of black and white if something isn’t perfect then it’s bad.|
|Mental Filter||You filter out the good and focus only on the bad.|
|Disqualifying the Positive||You dismiss positive thoughts and things by saying they don’t matter or they don’t count.|
|Jumping to Conclusion||You assume either something bad is going to happen and take your negative belief as a fact. You think that you can read the other person’s mind and that the other person has a negative view of you.|
|Magnification or Minimization||You magnify the impact and importance of negative things and minimize the importance of positive things.|
|Emotional Reasoning||You believe that because you feel a certain way, that things, in reality, are that way. Ex. “I have a bad life because I feel sad.”|
|Should Statements||You tell yourself that you should have done things differently, or that things should/shouldn’t have been different. This piles up feelings of shame and guilt in you.|
|Overgeneralization||You believe everything will be bad if you see one thing as bad.|
|Labeling and Mislabeling||You overgeneralize and attach a negative label to yourself. Ex. “I’m a loser.”|
|Personalization||You blame yourself and consider yourself responsible for negative things outside of your control.|
Arguing your mental thoughts
The third step in improving your mood is to argue against the negative thoughts and learning that the negative thoughts are distorted and false.
Here are examples of arguing negative thoughts:
|I got a bad test result, so I will never do well on my test.||Overgeneralization||Although I didn’t do well on this particular test it doesn’t mean that I will never do well.|
|I am a stupid loser!||Labelling||Making a stupid mistake does not mean I am stupid. One single bad event in my life cannot define who I am.|
|I am late to the party so my friends will think I’m lazy||Mind reading, Labelling||Although I’m late to the event, I can’t read my friend’s minds and they won’t judge based on one event.|
By continuing to identify negative thoughts throughout the day and arguing with them there should be a decrease in the occurrences of negative thoughts and as a result a decrease in negative mood.
For one day try to identify the negative thoughts that pop up in your mind whenever you feel sad or irritated. Then try to argue against them.
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