How to Challenge Your Irrational Thoughts
If you looked at the contents of your mind, what would you say are the types of thoughts you have each day?
Are they mostly positive, uplifting, and encouraging? Or negative, doubtful, and irrational?
We all have those negative and irrational thoughts once in a while.
However, when they make up most of your daily thoughts, that's when it can get dangerous. Irrational thinking can feel isolating.
You might wonder, does everyone think this way, or is it just me? What can I do about these thoughts?
First, let's get to know the general types of irrational thoughts. Irrational thoughts can come in many different forms. Some of the most common ones can be categorized as the following.
Here are a few ways to challenge these irrational thought patterns.
You draw general rules from specific events and apply them across unrelated situations. You say things like, "People at work don't like me, I'll never find a partner and will likely be alone for the rest of my life."
Instead of using a past outcome to define another, re-wire your thoughts. See that one outcome as just that - an outcome. It doesn't have to affect the other areas of your life.
2. "All-or-nothing" Thinking
This type of irrational thought makes you put things, people, or situations in either/or categories. For example:
"Either this day will be the best day of my life or the worst."
"She is either a true friend or a backstabber."
"I will either perfect that exam or fail the whole semester."
In order to challenge your thought pattern, question the pattern by generating one possibility that exists between the two options. Finding one alternative can help break the pattern You may say instead, "I may not get a perfect score in this exam, but I will try my best."
3. Personalization or Excessive Responsibility
Before blaming yourself for any mishap in life, consider all of the other factors that may have contributed to the problem. Additionally, try to re-wire your thoughts to learn from the mishap instead of blaming yourself or others.
4. "Should" Statements
Using "should" statements frequently can result in feelings of frustration and anger. To challenge this thought, try to expand your sense of choice. This starts with changing the language you use in your self-talk.
Whenever you find yourself having a “should,” “ought to” and “must,” statement replace it with “can,” “choose to” or “decide to.”
It can be very difficult to identify and challenge these rigid and irrational thought patterns on your own. This is because they are often so deeply ingrained in us.
Working with a therapist can help you improve your ability to challenge your rigid thoughts and develop more flexible ways of thinking. A licensed and experienced therapist can help you identify the irrational thought patterns that you yourself can't see.
If you need help or just someone to talk to, feel free to reach out. Our mental health coaches are available to guide you.
There's so much more for you to experience in this beautiful life. But you need to be willing to break out of thought patterns that are keeping you artificially constrained and distracted.
Remember, your mental health matters.