Cognitive Distortion Exercises - 3 Ways to Overcome Distorted Thinking and Daily Stress

Updated: Apr 11

We have discussed in a previous blog post what cognitive distortions are and how they may be affecting your stress. In this post we are going to explain 3 exercises to help combat distorted thinking so that you can live a less stressed, happier life.

Kopely Cognitive Distortion Exercises

Kopely has found that one of the most effective tools to help overcome cognitive distortions is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (also known as CBT). CBT was born from cognitive psychology. Dr. Ellis and Dr. Beck, the founding fathers of CBT were driven to help provide a therapy that actually helped their clients. Prior to CBT, many depressed clients were becoming more depressed with conventional Freudian techniques.

As found in Dr. David Burns book “Feeling Good” the goal of CBT is to restructure your thoughts and behaviors. Cognitive distortions are distorted ways of seeing, feeling and explaining the world. The goal of cognitive distortion exercises are to help you restructure and shift your distorted perspective toward a more rational and logical point of view.

The First Cognitive Distortion Exercise- "Triple Column Technique"

The goal of the Triple Column Technique is to help increase self-esteem. You may notice that sometimes or often times you are your own biggest critic. It is incredible to watch how hard some people are on themselves. When individuals become overly self critic they only make matters more stressful. As your self-worth goes down the drain you give yourself the opportunity to confirm your limitations with even more cognitive distortions like “I am not good at anything,” “I am a loser,” “No one likes me,” etc.

Each and every one of these cognitive distortions are false. You are good at something, just not everything. You aren’t a loser even though you don’t win at everything. And, just because you got in a fight with your parent’s doesn’t mean that your friends don’t like you.

Every time you feel yourself fall victim to your own self criticism quickly reach for the Triple Column Technique. This cognitive distortion exercise will help you reset and get you back on your feet to make more rational choice to help reduce your stress.

Here is an example of the Triple Column Technique:

The Second Cognitive Distortion Exercise- The "But Rebuttal"

One thing that gets in many people's way of self-improvement and stress relief is motivation (or their lack of). Most people know they shouldn’t worry so much, or that going to the gym will make them feel better, or that if they broke up with their boyfriend/girlfriend they would be less stressed and happier BUT they never take action.

Excuses get in many people's way of feeling less stressed and making better decisions. Relieving your stress and overcoming your cognitive distortions is no different. If you want to make real, lasting positive change in your life you have to get over the “but statements.”

An example of the But Rebuttal is:

“I should stop drinking so much wine, BUT…”*

  • I am not disciplined enough.

  • I don’t want to just stop and drinking less won’t be as much fun.

  • I have been really stressed lately and drinking takes the edge off.

*You can see how this type of behavior can lead to many unhealthy coping strategies like alcohol and drug abuse.

The goal with this exercise is to rebuttal each previous “But Statement”.

Here is an example of how you can work through your excuses as they come up.

The Third Cognitive Distortion Exercise- The “Should Statement"

We know too many people who get overwhelmed by stress because they rig the game of life against themselves. Have you ever caught yourself saying that you “should do this," or that someone else “should do that"?

Should statements can be harmful, especially for your mental health and overall well-being. If you want to live a less stressful life, rewrite your own rules of the game of life. Most of your stress that you experience on a daily basis is at a minimum 50% of your fault. How?!

Managing people and relationships is complicated. However, managing should statements and expectations is impossible. You may upset yourself or get frustrated with your spouse, family members, friends or co-workers because you are unconsciously creating unrealistic rules for everyone (aka should statements, aka 50% of your fault).

Here is an example of a should statement:

Being entitled to love and compassion. “If I cook dinner and clean up for my girlfriend, I deserve to be showered with her love and attention.”

Can you see how this way of thinking can be setting yourself (and you relationship) up for failure? Revise your should statements to keep you happier and less stressed:

Kopely hopes that these three cognitive distortion exercises have helped you gain a better understanding of your relationship with stress. We also hope that this information has helped you make a perspective shift. With the right perspective shift you will start seeing the world in a more optimistic way. As you build up your coping skills and shift your perspective toward optimism you will become more resilient to stress!

If you want to learn how to help overcome your stress with our stress management techniques, check out our Stress Management Worksheet.

And, if you want to be one of Kopely's first users for our Stress Relief App, sign-up here. We launch in July!

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