Whenever people talk about mental illnesses, they often say that they are illnesses of the mind and of overthinking. In fact, overthinking, also called rumination, is the very hallmark of depression, anxiety and many other mental disorders.
A good way to deal with overthinking is to learn to recognise when our thinking is becoming a problem. Often there are patterns in our specific ways of thinking that we can identify, which can, in turn, help us to catch these unhelpful thoughts and change them. Techniques to help us catch our thoughts and thought patterns can include journaling, mindfulness meditation and talk therapy. Below are some of these unhelpful thinking styles to look out for.
A mental filter is kind of like tunnel vision where we only focus on part of the information, usually the negative parts of the situation and ignoring the positive. For example, when we go for a performance appraisal at work and our boss gives us 9 positive things they like about our work, but 1 area of improvement. Likely, most of us will tend to focus on the criticism and simply blow off the positive feedback.
Jumping to conclusions happens when we make assumptions about other people’s thinking and intentions or about the future. These assumptions are called mind-reading or fortune-telling. For example, when we walk down the road and hear people laughing, and assume they are laughing at us. Thinking things apply to us, specifically, when it could be someone else, is also known as personalisation. Or we may not apply for a new job or ask someone out on a date, because we “predict” that they outcome would be failure, even if we don’t really know what the outcome may be.
Emotional reasoning refers to when we make decisions based on how we are feeling. But as we all know, never make decisions when you are sad or angry. Rather sleep on it and respond in the morning when you are calm.
Catastrophising is when we blow things out of proportion. For example, if your boyfriend your phone call and you immediately assume that your relationship is falling apart.
Black and White thinking is when we use absolute or extreme terms like “always, never, all”, for example, all women are cheaters. Life is more grey than black and white.
These are just some of the thinking errors we commonly make. There are many more if you find this interesting and want to read up more! Learning to catch and analyse our thinking styles empower us to change our thoughts and feelings and so change our behaviour. This can help us stay mentally fit and healthy!