Pursue What Matters
Episode 51: Spring Clean Your Mind
Please excuse any typos, transcripts are generated by an automated service
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
It’s spring! The ground is beginning to thaw The weather’s slowly warming and the buds are starting to bloom on the trees. It must be time for spring cleaning. Well, today I’m going to help you do a different kind of spring cleaning, of your mind. Let’s clear out some cobwebs, shall we?
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:20
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. Spring The flowers are starting to bloom. And if you’re like most people, it is a time we like to air out our houses, open them up a little bit and clear out the clutter. It is time for spring cleaning, clear the windows that have been lashed with storms all winter so that you can see more clearly, my windows are horrible, I can’t I cannot wait to get them clean, maybe haul off things you don’t need to Goodwill and clean out the corners. Well, that is what we are talking about today. But we are going to spring clean your messy mind and I have got an excellent freebie for you that is going to help you do just that. So your mind is like your house, maybe you have some gritty filters in your mind that prevent you from seeing clearly, perhaps you need to haul off some old baggage that has been taking up space in your mind that is no longer useful to you. And you know, perhaps your mind could use some good scrubbing, we all accumulate some unhelpful ways of thinking as we move through life. And if we don’t take some time and do a little bit of spring cleaning, from time to time, our minds become a pretty messy place. I speak from experience.
Dr. Melissa Smith 2:07
So first, I want to explain a little bit about cognitive behavioral therapy. So you know, cognitive behavioral therapy is probably the most well recognized approach to therapy, it’s a very, very common approach to therapy. So it’s, it’s also known as CBT. And it is a form of talking therapy, which is you know, used to, to treat people with a wide range of mental health problems. So, but it’s also a really popular self help approach that Incidentally, you can use to spring clean your mind. So as luck would have it. So see, CBT is based on the idea that how we think so cognitions and how we feel emotions, and how we act behaviors all interact together. So specifically, our thoughts determine our feelings and our behavior. So that’s kind of the theory behind CBT. So therefore, negative and unrealistic thoughts can cause us distress, and result in problems. So when a person suffers with psychological distress, the way in which they interpret situations can often become skewed, which in turn has a negative impact on the actions that they take. And so that’s kind of CBT in a nutshell.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:31
There are three assumptions that go along with CBT. So the first one is that the cognitive approach believes that mental illness stems from faulty cognitions or beliefs about others, our world and ourselves. So this faulty thinking may be through cognitive deficiencies, that’s a fancy term for like lack of planning, or cognitive distortions. And that’s, you know, a fancy term for our beliefs or our thoughts or you know, the idea that we process information inaccurately. So, like thinking errors basically, the second assumption is that these cognitions cause distortions in the way we see things. So, right like, those beliefs, those thoughts lead to distortions in how we perceive or interpret the world. And the third assumption is that we interact with the world through our mental representation of it. So based on those interpretations or our filter of the world, so and right, as a result of this, we can over time, based on these faulty interpretations, these filters, we can develop some cognitive distortions, right? Some ineffective beliefs. And cognitive distortions are these biased perspectives that we take on ourselves and the world around us. So there are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we often unknowingly reinforced over time. So their patterns and systems of thoughts that are often very subtle, it can be difficult to recognize them when they are a regular feature of our day to day thoughts. So a lot, a lot of times we don’t have much awareness about them. And so that’s why they can be really so very undermining because it’s hard to change what you don’t recognize, because it’s just like, oh, like this is just, you know, we don’t recognize that it’s a filter, we don’t recognize that it’s a distortion, because it’s just the lens through which we see the world. So we don’t recognize that there’s actually a filter getting in the way for us. So cognitive distortions come in many forms, but they have some things in common. So all cognitive distortions are tendencies or patterns of thinking or believing they are false or inaccurate. That’s why they’re distortions, and they have the potential to cause psychological damage. So they’re not good, they’re not good. We don’t want them getting in the way.
Dr. Melissa Smith 6:15
And this is the other thing, most of us have some cognitive distortions, to a greater or lesser degree. So the issue is one of impact. So, you know, are they are they getting in the way for us to a greater or lesser extent. So if you’re human, you’ve probably fallen for a few of the many cognitive distortions at one time or another. And so the ability to identify and modify or correct these faulty patterns of thinking is really the name of the game. And so when we think about CBT treatment, that’s one of the core interventions of CBT is to help you identify the cognitive distortions and to correct those, so you don’t, you know, so that they’re not impacting your life. And so, you know, these distortions have been shown to relate positively to symptoms of depression. So people who have a lot of cognitive distortions tend to have higher rates of depression. So, you know, that’s a problem.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:17
So we definitely want to address those. And in the words of the renowned psychiatrist and researcher, David Burns, who’s done a ton of research, and writing, and clinical work with CBT. And of course, with depression, he said, “I suspect you will find that a great many of your negative feelings are in fact, based on such thinking errors.” So errors in thinking, you know, or the cognitive distortions are particularly effective, at provoking or making worse our symptoms of depression. So there’s a little bit of a question of like, the chicken or the egg, like, the the cognitive distortions come first? Or did the depression come first? Right? Like, there are questions about that. But regardless, once they’re, once they’re in place, you know, we want to make sure that we can kind of root those out.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:11
And so again, I just want to remind you that I’ve got a great freebie associated with this podcast, it’s called spring clean your messy mind. And with that, freebie, I am going to go over all I’m going to have a review over the most common cognitive distortions. And then I have a little worksheet for you to help you do some troubleshooting for yourself, so that you don’t get caught with get caught in these cognitive distortions. But what I want to do now is I want to go over some of the most common cognitive distortions, and like I said, most alll of us fall, fall prey to some of the cognitive distortions to some degree at some point. And so, you know, it’s, it’s not an all or nothing thing you’ll find out that’s, that’s actually a cognitive distortion. But I just want you to just kind of pay attention to what you might notice for yourself. And then again, I’m going to have a great freebie that lists all of these most common cognitive distortions. So you can maybe download that and it can kind of help you identify some of the some of the traps that maybe you’re more prone to getting caught and because that that is also common that you know, kind of have our favorite cognitive distortions where we tend to get caught.
Dr. Melissa Smith 9:41
Okay, so the first one I want to talk about, and this is a really, really common one is all or nothing thinking. It’s also known as polarized thinking also known as black and white thinking. So this distortion really shows up as an inability or unwillingness to see Shades of Grey. So you see things in terms of extremes. So something is either, you know, awesome, or it’s awful. And you might believe that you’re perfect or a total failure. So like there is no middle ground. The next distortion is over generalization. So this one can be kind of tricky because it’s an example. It only takes one instance, or example and generalizes it to an overall pattern. So for example, a student might receive a C on a test and then conclude that he’s a total failure. So that’s overgeneralization. And this can really lead to an to overly negative thoughts about yourself and your environment based on only one or two experiences. So this can be really, you know, very dangerous, because you’re just taking, you know, one or two data points, and then generalizing about maybe your whole character, or your whole life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:03
The next distortion is mental filter. So this is similar to overgeneralization. And this focuses on a single negative piece of information, and excludes all the positive ones. So an example of this is say, like, that person in a romantic relationship, dwelling on a single negative comment made by the other partner, and, you know, concluding that the relationship is a lost cause, while ignoring the years of positive comments and experiences. So how many have done that, and you know, one of the things that happens is, our minds are, are so highly attuned to the negative, and it’s something that has been functional for us, right? Like, it’s one of the ways that we have survived over time. And so it’s, you know, we’re particularly vulnerable to the mental filter, but boy, it is not helpful for us. So this cognitive distortion, obviously can foster a very pessimistic view of everything around us, because we just focus on the negative.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:12
And then the next cognitive distortion is disqualifying the positive. So on the flip side, this distortion acknowledges positive experiences, but then it will just reject them, instead of embracing them. So, for example, a person might receive a positive review at work, but then reject the idea that they are competent, and attribute the positive review to political correctness, or to the boss simply not wanting to talk about their employees performance problems, so so they might, they might say like, Okay, so let’s think of another example where maybe a person took a test. And let’s say they got like an A on the test. And so they’ll say, Well, yeah, I got an A, but it was a really easy test. So they acknowledge the positive, but then they reject that it was because they did a good job on the test, or that they, you know, were competent with the test, but they dismiss it, as you know, there was some other external factor, that it wasn’t actually about their abilities. So this is, you know, this, disqualifying the positive can be really, very undermining because it can, it facilitates the continuation of negative thought patterns, even in the face of strong evidence to the contrary. So people tend to get really frustrated with these folks, because it’s like, my goodness, like, you know, what is it going to take for you to accept the good in your life because that these, these individuals tend to actively argue against the strong positive evidence in their life.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:07
And then the next distortion is jumping to conclusions, also known as mind reading, I often call it mind reading, that’s, that’s typically what I call it, but either way, Either one works. So, this one manifests as the inaccurate belief that we know what the other person is thinking, right. So, mind reading, of course, it is possible to have an idea of what other people are thinking, but this distortion refers to the negative interpretations that we jump to. So typically, that that mind reading is typically negative, right? Like we assume, we know other people are thinking so you walk into a room and you see other people chatting and you assume that they are talking negatively about you. So seeing a stranger with an unpleasant expression and jumping to the conclusion that they are thinking something negative about you as an example of this distortion.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:01
The next distortion is jumping to conclusions or fortune telling. So this is also related to mind reading. It refers to the tendency to make conclusions and predictions based on little to no evidence and then holding them as gospel truths. So an example might be a young single woman predicting that she will never find love or have a committed and happy relationship based on the fact that she hasn’t found it yet. So right I mean, there’s no way for her to know how her life will turn out, but she uses this prediction as a fact, rather than one of several possible outcomes.
Dr. Melissa Smith 15:45
The next distortion is magnification or minimization. I often refer to this one and you can also call it this is catastrophizing is also known as the binocular trick for itself, the skewing of your perspective. So this distortion involves exaggerating or minimizing the meaning or importance or likelihood of things. So an example would be an athlete who’s generally a good player, but makes a mistake, and then magnifies the importance of that mistake, and believes that like he’s a terrible teammate. Another example might be an athlete who wins a big award, and then might minimize the importance of the award and continue believing that, you know, she’s just a mediocre player. So that would be catastrophizing. So you know, having a situation happen and assuming like it is the worst thing ever, and like they’re never gonna be able to get past that situation. So that’s an example of catastrophizing.
Dr. Melissa Smith 16:52
Okay, so the next distortion is emotional reasoning. And this one can be a little bit trickier for people because a lot of times we accept our emotions as fact. And what I would say, and what CBT says is, don’t accept your emotions, as fact, emotions lie to you all the time. So emotional reasoning refers to the acceptance of one’s emotions as fact. So it’s this idea of like, I feel, therefore it must be true. And that is just garbage. thinking like that is not true. So just because we feel something doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s just doesn’t, it just doesn’t.
Dr. Melissa Smith 17:35
So the example that they use is that, like, you might become jealous and think your partner has feelings for someone else. But that doesn’t make it true. It just makes you jealous. That’s it, you know. So it isn’t reasonable to take your feelings as fact. But it is a really common distortion. I mean, we often do that. And so it was emotional reasoning, and it’s not helpful at all.
Dr. Melissa Smith 18:03
The next distortion is should statements. This is a really common one, I see this one all the time. And it it can be very unhelpful. It’s very undermining. And it’s the tendency to make should statements. So these are the statements that you make to yourself about what you should do what you ought to do what you must do. So this is really like the high expectations, pressure, unrelenting demands. We see this with people pleasers, we see this with perfectionist a lot. And it’s it can also be applied to others. But it’s imposing a set of expectations that might not be realistic, maybe they’re unfair, or unreasonable. And that the thing is that we can be pretty rigid about our should statements about ourselves. And the result is we often feel a lot of guilt, or shame or judgment when we can’t live up to them. And so we can also cling to these should statements about others, and then end up feeling really disappointed by their failure to meet our expectations. And of course, then this can lead to a lot of anger and resentment. And you know, the work is really being able to step back from some of those unreasonable expectations, rather than, you know, feeling the anger and resentment towards someone else about an expectation that wasn’t reasonable in the first place.
Dr. Melissa Smith 19:29
The next distortion is labeling and mislabeling. So these tendencies are extreme forms of overgenerous overgeneralization in which we assign judgments of value to ourselves or others based on like one instance or experience so, so maybe someone labels herself a fool for missing an assignment, or a waiter labels a customer, a cheapskate if he fails. to, you know, tip them. So mislabeling refers to the application of highly emotional loaded and inaccurate or unreasonable language when labeling.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:12
The next distortion is personalization. So as the name implies, this distortion involves taking everything personally, or assigning blame to yourself without any logical reason to believe you are to blame. So right, like it’s all about you, you’re to blame, you’re the problem. And this can cover a lot of different situations from assuming you are the reason a friend, a friend did not have fun on an outing with you to more severe examples of believing that you are the cause for every stress or problem that’s happening around you.
Dr. Melissa Smith 20:46
The next distortion includes control fallacy. So control fallacy manifests as one of two beliefs. One is that we have no control over our lives, and we’re helpless victim of fate, or the alternative, which is we are in complete control of ourselves. And so I always talk about like the that, you know, the illusion of control, that we have control of our lives, but also that we’re not helpless victims. So below, both beliefs are damaging and equally inaccurate. So none of us have complete control of what happens to us. But we’re also not completely helpless. And then we have the fallacy of fairness, which is this idea that life is supposed to be fair, I love talking about this one with my teenagers, because teenagers in particular, have this inherent sense of fairness, which I think is one of the things that’s great about teenagers. But sometimes they fall into this fallacy and assume that everything should be fair. And this is not based in reality. I mean, it’s just not. And so it can really foster negative feelings when they’re faced with evidence of life’s unfairness. And I think the sooner they realize that life is not fair, the better.
Dr. Melissa Smith 22:13
So there’s that. And then we have the fallacy of change. And this is kind of expecting others to change if we pressure or encourage them enough. I mean, how many times have we seen this happen in relationship that this distortion is usually it usually goes along with a belief that our happiness and success rests on other people. So leading us to believe that forcing those around us to change is the only way to get what we want? Hello, codependence. I mean, I just we see that so often, especially in new relationships, you know, and new marriages, that sort of thing like that, in order for me to be happy they have to change, or that our happiness rests on our partner changing. And that’s just a joke. I mean, it’s just not the way it works.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:03
And then the next distortion is this idea of always being right. So perfectionist, and those struggling with maybe imposter syndrome, have this belief that they must always be right. That’s bad for that. So and that’s where this intense fear of failure comes from, because they can’t tolerate failure. So for those struggling with this distortion, the idea that we could be wrong is absolutely unacceptable. And so they’ll just, they won’t take risks, because they cannot tolerate being wrong or, you know, being perceived as failing at something.
Dr. Melissa Smith 23:43
And then another distortion is Heaven’s reward fallacy. So this is a popular one. And we can often see this in movies, actually. So it’s kind of the belief that when struggles and suffering or hard work will result will result in a just reward, which, you know, is a nice thought, but it’s not actually necessarily true, right? Because I mean, hard work and sacrifice doesn’t always necessarily pay off. And it can be, it can be kind of a damaging pattern of thought, that can result in disappointment, frustration, anger, and even depression, and when that awaited reward does not materialize. And so we kind of think about shifting that perception in terms of the work becomes its own reward or finding purpose in the work rather than looking for the reward of you know, like, my sacrifice is only valid if I get the reward and and, and so you kind of got to be careful of the Heaven’s reward fallacy.
Dr. Melissa Smith 24:48
Okay, so those are the most common distortions, and I used as a reference, I definitely had a reference for that and I link to that reference in the show notes. So if you want to learn a little bit more, you can link to that reference. And so some of those come from simply psychology, I also use some references from positive psychology.com. And then use some guidelines from an apa.org, the PTSD guidelines. And then also I am going to reference to the burns Feeling Good book, which is probably the best known book on CBT treatment for depression, it’s kind of, it’s actually kind of known as the Bible for CBT, CBT, depression, depression treatment, it’s been around for a long time, it’s thick, it’s like as thick as a Bible. But if you want a really good, comprehensive treatment of CBT approach to depression, with all of the cognitive distortions listed, and specific interventions for each of those, the Burns book is definitely the place to go for that. And so I will link to that book in the show notes. So definitely, you can read up on that if you want more information there.
Dr. Melissa Smith 26:18
So now let’s move into some solutions. So solution, one, increase your awareness of your favorite cognitive distortions. And here’s the thing we all have our favorite cognitive distortions are the ones that we are more susceptible to using. And, you know, most of us initially, we don’t have much awareness about those cognitive distortions, right? Like, we don’t know that we necessarily have those distortions in place or those filters in place. It’s just like, this is the world to us. And so that’s why it’s helpful to have awareness about these cognitive distortions. And once you have awareness, you’ll start to identify these distortions in yourself, and in other people. And so reviewing the list and identifying the ones that you are most vulnerable for using. So something that can be helpful is to catch yourself and challenge yourself either mentally or verbally and asking, like, Is that really true, or, hey, that’s a cognitive distortion and then redirecting to a more effective thought. And so that can be really the first step is just building some awareness. And, and attention around those cognitive distortions for yourself.
Dr. Melissa Smith 27:34
And then solution two is to use an automatic thought record. And this is a staple of cognitive behavioral therapy. So as you become more familiar with your most commonly used cognitive distortions, begin recording your automatic thoughts, so you can begin combating them. So for a specific period of time, so maybe a day or even a few days, you would record your thoughts. And you’d include the following. So date and time, the situation, the automatic thoughts, the emotions, your response, and then a more adaptive response. So the automatic thought record really helps you to not only build more awareness about the distortions, but to also intervene in the moment, so that you can slow down the process and make those automatic thoughts less automatic, because that’s what we want to do, right? Like, we don’t want those cognitive distortions to be automatic. And of course, we want your reactions to be less reactive. So instead of automatically reacting emotionally, and often, you know, in effectively, the ATR or the automatic thought record, helps you slow yourself down and respond more adaptively. So even if you don’t catch yourself until after the fact, you know, like after you fill out the record, it still helps you to increase your awareness so that next time when you run into the distortion, because you’ll totally run into it again, like we always, we always will, and you’re better prepared to respond adaptively so it can kind of feel like a little bit of a hassle to keep that thought record. But it can be super helpful for building that awareness and a more adaptive response.
Dr. Melissa Smith 29:22
And then solution three is a cognitive distortion post mortem. So post post mortem, I was talking to my team about this and they’re like, what is a post mortem? Like they didn’t even know but a post mortem is like an autopsy right? So like it I mean, it’s kind of morbid, right? But that’s, that’s what it is. So like after the fact like after death or after situation, a post mortem would be an analysis of the situation to try and understand like, what happened, where did it go wrong? What can we do to understand the situation so you could think of it as like an autopsy of the situation. So as you become more familiar with your use of the cognitive distortions in various situations, I want you to do a post mortem to increase awareness and commitment to abandoning that distortion. So the questions that I want you to look at include, which cognitive distortion were you using? And what is the evidence that the automatic thought or the cognitive distortion? So I’m using that term those two terms interchangeably is true. What is the evidence that it is not true? And you thought about the worst that can happen? What’s the best that could happen? Right? So this, this is where, right like our brains are geared towards the negative, right? We’re so much better at seeing the negative than the positive. So we want to kind of help shift that balance a little bit. And then the question, what’s the most realistic situation like, what’s the most likely thing to happen? And how likely are the best case scenario and the most realistic scenario, so you kind of have to do a little bit of an assessment, a predictive assessment. And so this, these questions, this little post mortem assessment, I’m going to include on the freebie so on the freemium is going to include all the distortion, so you’re going to have a list to help you build that awareness. And then I’m going to have this little worksheet for you. So you have these self assessment questions to kind of help you start building some awareness to help you kind of assess this and really help you start challenging your use of the cognitive distortions because we want to help, we want to help you really get good at decluttering your mind, right? And looking at like, Okay, how useful is this? And what’s more likely, what’s less likely? So right, like, you’re kind of determining like, what, you know, what goes in which bin? And what do I need to get rid of like, what thoughts do I need to get rid of? And so this assignment will help you with that process.
Dr. Melissa Smith 32:09
Okay, solution four is de-catastrophizing. So if you have a tendency to catastrophize events, then this is the perfect solution for you. So I want you to answer the question, What are you worried about and be as specific as you can, and then I, then I want you to consider how the situation will turn out. So, in the worst case scenario, how will the situation turn out? So, do you have a past experience that was a catastrophe? And if so, how often did that happen? And then you can make an educated guess, guess, of how likely the worst case scenario is to happen. Okay, so this is where like, you let your anxiety riddled mine, have at it, and just go with the catastrophe and the worst case scenario. And then the next step is to consider what is most likely to happen. So not the best possible outcome, or the worst possible outcome, but the most likely outcome. So consider this scenario in detail as well and write it down. And then again, make a reasonable guess about how likely you think this scenario is to happen as well. Okay, then the next step. Now, think about your chances of surviving this situation in one piece. I’m serious about that. Okay, so how likely is it that you will be okay, one week from now, if your fear comes true? So if your worst case scenario comes true, how likely is it that you will be okay one week from now? If it happens, and how likely is it that you’ll be okay in one month? And how likely is it that you’ll be okay in one year? So for all three, write down, yes. If you think you’ll be okay. And no if you don’t think you’d be okay. Okay. And then the next step is now come back to the present and consider how you feel right now. Right? So you might be kind of amped up, you might have some emotions kicking in there. Are you still just as worried? Or did the exercise help you think a little bit more realistically? So write down how you’re feeling about it. And what we see with this exercise is it helps to bring in some perspective, because it helps to bring in the long view and to look at Okay, like really, how realistic is this? You know, because when we let our anxiety rule us, there’s absolutely no perspective. All we can see are our worries like our worries are right in front of our face. And if we fail to see how likely the scenario is, we fail to see the long view we fail to picture and so this exercise really helps us to kind of take those worries down just a notch long enough to bring in some perspective. And, you know, I think this, this big picture perspective can be helpful, which is, if it won’t matter in five years, then don’t spend more than five minutes worrying about it. And that can really help to bring in that perspective.
Dr. Melissa Smith 35:24
Okay, solution five, make a list of your rules. So often, when you have a lot of cognitive distortions, you also have a lot of hidden rules that guide your behavior. So these rules can act as a way of managing anxiety. But in reality, they typically only reinforce anxiety and make life more treacherous. So, you know, some rules can guide our action toward our values, while others undermine us and limit our functioning. So this solution is really designed to help you differentiate between the two, so that you’re the master of your ship, right? So you’re the one driving your boss and you’re not being driven by your anxiety. So, you know, choose your metaphor, whether it’s the ship or the bus, either way, we want you to be the master or the driver. So think about a recent situation, maybe where you felt bad about your behavior afterward. So maybe you felt guilty because you, you felt like you broke one of your rules.
Dr. Melissa Smith 36:24
So I’ll just give you an example. A common one, for those struggling maybe with the diet mentality would be, I feel guilty that I ate too much at dinner. So the first thing you would do would, would be would be the definition and assumption of the rule. So what are the parameters of the rules? How does it compel you to think or act? And then the second, the second one is the origins and impact of the rule. So once you’ve described the rule, think about where it came from. So when did you first start using this rule? How did you learn it? You know, did you learn it from someone else? If so, who? How did you first learn about it? What was happening in your life that encouraged you to adopt the rule? And what makes you think it’s a good rule to have? So right, if we think about this rule about ice, you know, I felt guilty that I ate too much at dinner. You know, if we think about the rule, like I shouldn’t eat too much at dinner, and where does that rule come from? And is that because at dinner growing up, you know, there were strict rules about how much we could eat at dinner, or there was a strict rule about like, Don’t ever let yourself get too full. Or if it looked like your stomach was poking out too much, it meant you ate too much, regardless of how full you fell, right? So we really want to start to understand the assumptions and the history that go with that rule. Because often, there are lots of assumptions and lots of history that go with the rules. And then, you know, we want to look at the advantages and the disadvantages of the rule. So every rule we follow, likely has both advantages and disadvantages. So the presence of an advantage doesn’t necessarily make the rule a good one, just like the presence of a disadvantage doesn’t necessarily make the rule a bad one. So it’s really important to think critically about how the how the rule operates in your life and the assumptions behind the rule. So you know, we want to think about how it helps you and or how it hurts you. And then the last, not the last one, but the next one is making a decision about the rule. So now you get to decide what to do with the rule. Now that you’ve had to had a chance to think through and do an analysis of the rule in your life. So you have a few options, you could keep the rule as is, you could throw out the rule entirely and create a new one. You could modify it into a new rules that would suit you better. Right? So there’s lots of things you could do with it right on the I feel guilty because I ate too much at dinner. Maybe what you figure out is, you know what, that was just a message from my mom, because she was always on a diet and she felt guilty if she ate anything for dinner. And so you figure out like that was just my mom’s dieting rule. And I just, I just internalize that because I wanted to be like, Mom, and maybe I don’t need to follow that rule anymore. And so maybe you decide to throw out that rule entirely and create a new one, which is I give myself permission to enjoy dinner without guilt. Right? So maybe that’s your new rule. And so that’s the next step is identify The new rule.
Dr. Melissa Smith 40:00
So if you decide to change the rule focus on maximizing advantages, while limiting disadvantages. So write down the new rule, and identify how you can put it into practice in your life. So it could be a big change or a small change. So I think it was like a week ago or something, I was watching the new Taylor Swift documentary. And she talked about this exactly. So she talks about her experience with an eating disorder, and of not looking at photos of herself. And she talked about changing the rules for herself and changing the channel in her brain. So she talked about how she used to obsess about looking at photos of herself in the media and how she had to tell herself Nope, I’m changing the channel, in my brain, and nope, I don’t do that anymore. And so she would limit her viewing of those photos, because she doesn’t go to good places, right, she goes to comparison and self evaluation, and at least all of these body image issues for her. And so she created a new rule for herself because the old rule was harmful, which was to obsess over those photos and compare herself to others, and to her past self, and whether she had gained weight. And so I was, you know, sitting there watching the show, and the documentary, and I was like, Oh, that’s such a perfect example, of her old rule. And then her flipping the script and coming up with a new rule for herself. So it was it was a great example of that.
Dr. Melissa Smith 41:38
Okay, solution, six, ask others for a reality check. So this is where you want to ask a trusted friend or loved one, for feedback about your cognitive distortions. So lesson one, not in on your cognitive distortions and ask them to let you know, when they notice you engaging in the cognitive distortions. So maybe you want to come up with a code word that simply alerts you to your use of the distortion, so that you can quickly shift your thinking and behavior in these moments without feeling too embarrassed. So, for example, like if you’re working on the fallacy of fairness, you could ask a trusted friend, just to remind you that life isn’t fair, when they notice you getting caught in this distortion, or they can help you know the word that your use of the word should, right if it’s like, Oh, there you go shooting again. Right, that’s a good one, that’s a popular one. And then solution seven, strengthen your use of coping skills to help you manage stressful situations and remain calm. So coping skills is always a big one. So of course, meditation can be a really great tool to help challenge the monkey mind. The monkey mind is all about those cognitive distortions and loves jumping to conclusions, wreaking havoc on relationships and making drama unnecessarily. So your ability to remain calm and grounded and not get caught up in the monkey mind. And the cognitive distortions can really make all the difference in identifying the cognitive distortions, and realizing that they’re, they’re not automatic thoughts, right like that you actually have some power to intervene and to respond more adaptively.
Dr. Melissa Smith 43:28
And then the last solution, solution eight is to face situations you fear rather than avoiding them. And this is a big one. So cognitive distortions, feeding, feed, anxiety and fear. And when we are in that mindset, avoidance seems like the perfect solution. But of course, avoidance only reinforces more anxiety and fear. So you’ve got to face your fears, and stare down these cognitive distortions. So it’s in facing your fears that you prove your worst case scenarios wrong. So this is what’s true about anxiety is that anticipation is almost always like 99.99% of the time, worse than acting. So acting on fears builds confidence, and serves to stamp down that anxiety. So anger, so avoidance only reinforces the anxiety.
Dr. Melissa Smith 44:30
So there you go, my goodness, lots of solutions there and a really great freebie. So we want to help you spring clean your messy mind. That’s the freebie. So head on over to my website to the show notes and you can find the link to burns feeling good book, and also all of the articles that I use as resources and references for this podcast plus, of course, the link to the freebie at www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-51 one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/episode-51 . I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
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