Counsellor Sarah Barr looks at how to check your thoughts and be aware of how they make you feel.

In today’s article I’m writing about how to identify your thinking patterns. These patterns are your type of thoughts that you have everyday. Therefore how we think contributes to how we feel and behave day to day.

It is believed that we have over 60,000 thoughts a day. Yet a thought is just is thought, it is not FACT. However, when we attach an emotion to the thought, it can become real to us and affect how we feel.

When we have negative thoughts and irrational beliefs it can really impact our self-esteem and create anxiety. These negative and often untrue thoughts only serve to make us feel bad about ourselves.Image result for how you selftalk to yourself be kind


I have listed ten distorted thinking patterns. Is there any you can identify with?

1. All-Or-Nothing Thinking –

You see things in black-and-white categories. You think in absolutes, so you will think or say words such as “always”, “never” or “every”. If you think you have not done your best you will see yourself as a complete failure.

2. Overgeneralization –

You see a single negative event such as not getting a job you applied for, as a never-ending pattern of defeat. Thinking “this always happens to me” or “I am no good, nothing good ever happens to me”.

3. Mental Filter

You pick out a single negative defeat and focus all your energy on it. This causes tunnel vision that stops you from seeing the whole picture.

4. Ignoring the positive

You dismiss any positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. By doing this you are maintaining a negative belief which is often contradicted by everyday experiences.

 5. Jumping to conclusions

You make a negative interpretation without any evidence or facts to back it up. This can be broken into subcategories:
A. Mind reading: You believe that you can read a person and therefore conclude if that person likes your or does not like you.
B. The fortune teller: You expect that things will turn out bad and become convinced that your prediction is a fact.

6. Catastrophising or Minimization 

You exaggerate the importance of things, such as viewing small mistakes as life-changing events and continually emotionally beat yourself up over these. Or you inappropriately shrink things such as your own positive qualities and achievements.

7. Emotional Reasoning

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true. Such as I feel like a bad friend, therefore I must be a bad friend.

8. Should Statements

If you use the words  “should” or “must”  to motivate yourself, understand that these words create a guilt response.  Ask yourself who says “you SHOULD deep clean the house now” or that “you MUST make sure no-one sees you having a bad day”. All you are doing  is creating judgmental and unforgiving expectations that can lead to anxiety.

9. Labeling  –

This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your mishap or mistake, you attach a negative label to yourself. Such as “I’m a loser”, “lazy” or “stupid”, stating them like they are facts. By doing this you are affecting your self-esteem and self-worth.

10. Personalisation

You take things personally, believing that other people are blaming you or that you are the cause for a negative situation. This can be done without having any evidence to back this up. If you are prone to this thinking pattern you probably regularly self-talk in a negative way.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a technique used by some counsellors that help their clients to break negative thinking habits.

To help do this try following the three C’s:

  • Catch your thought ~ By familiarising yourself with the above ten distorted thinking patterns.
  • Challenge your thought ~ Once you know the patterns, you can begin to recognise your thought patterns may not be hindering you.
  • Change your thought ~ Become aware if certain thinking patterns resonate in particular situations or with certain people. By becoming more aware of your triggers will help you in changing your thinking patterns.

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Tips you can try right now:

Take ten minutes and sit somewhere quietly. Get a notebook and pen.

Writing down your thoughts helps you to distant yourself from them and give you clarity. This will help you to think more objectively about your thoughts which is helpful in breaking negative thinking patterns.

Think back to a recent event or person that triggered feelings of anxiety, low mood, anger or sadness. Now ask yourself the following:

  • What was the event/situation/person?
  • Who was I with?
  • How was I feeling?
  • What did I see/hear/read?
  • When did my mood change?
  • What thoughts was I thinking?
  • What possible thinking distortions was I using?
  • What would be a better way to deal with this event/situation/person in the future?

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I hope this article helped you to be able to identify and become aware of your thinking pattern. If you would like to talk further about this or on how your thinking pattern is affecting you daily, call 086 4477867 or private message via my Facebook page: 

Appointments and free consultations available in Letterkenny and Moville.


Take care~ Sarah.