Tackling your cognitive distortions can seem intimidating and overwhelming, but the first step is just understanding that they’re there. As Dr. Willough Jenkins, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of California, says: When you label your thought, it takes a little bit of the power away from it. The game plan for reframing your thoughts is fairly straightforward.
Don’t Ignore Cognitive
Distortions, Notice Them
Every time you’re experiencing a distortion, point it out to yourself. As an example, feeling anxious before a presentation. Are you telling yourself you’re going to blow it? Does it lead to you thinking that you’re not good at your job? Jenkins even says, as an exercise, you can write these thoughts down, which helps to see and understand them more clearly.
Weigh the Evidence
Take out your thoughts and emotions for a second, and think about what the actual facts of the situation are. Usually, when we do this, the cold hard facts will dilute the negativity and help you see clearly. For example, if you have a solid track record at work, you can tell yourself that even a less-than-stellar presentation will not jeopardize your position and that there are plenty of people who rely on your work.
Seek a Distraction
Since these thoughts are essentially manufactured, they don’t always have staying power. So distraction can be a helpful and effective strategy. Passing time by doing a hobby or something that makes you feel good, like cooking, playing a video game or going for a quick walk, can alleviate the pressure of cognitive distortions.
Let It Go
If you keep returning to a negative thought despite labeling it as a cognitive distortion and talking about it, Jenkins recommends leaving it be. The mindfulness technique of observing a thought without judgment, then letting it pass can help create much-needed distance.