Updated: Apr 11
Negative thinking or cognitive distortions may be one of the many reasons why you and the whole country is stressed out of their gourds! In this PDF we are going to discuss what cognitive distortions are, examples of cognitive distortions and why we think cognitive distortions are one of the main drivers behind our daily stress.
Stress is a natural biological response to a new, weird, hard event(s). Science calls these difficult things or events, stressors. The “right” amount of stress may be just what you need to find the motivation to study for your MCATS or prepare for your next big job interview. However, if there is too much stress that never stops you may experience a host of physical and mental consequences like headaches, sadness, anger, loss of sleep and worse.
Kopely believes that if you are motivated to conquer your stress and lead a more optimistic, happy life, cognitive distortions may be low hanging fruit. Let's dive into it.
Cognitive Distortions Explained
Have you ever called yourself stupid, a loser, a waste of space?! Or maybe you have told yourself that you would never amount to anything, that you will never get that promotion, find the perfect relationship or that you will never be satisfied with your life. Does this sound familiar?
If you are human, the answer is most likely a “heck yes” to all of the above. Yes, you and almost everyone in the developed world has muttered to themselves a combination of negative, self-defeating words. *This is one of the many reasons why 1 in 5 American's will experience a mental health problem every 12 months.
All of the statements above are cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are statements we use (typically often) in our daily lives to help explain or define what we see, what we feel and what we think (aka our narrative) even though these statements may be illogical and untrue. In short, cognitive distortions are a really easy way for us to shape the world around us or to confirm our own experiences and reality.
Examples of Cognitive Distortions
Here are a few examples of how cognitive distortions that may slip into your daily life:
You are a straight-A graduate student who receives a B on your thesis. The student concludes that they are now a total failure (All-or-Nothing Thinking).
You are getting ready for a first date and you dress in your best clothes. As you are walking to the coffee shop a pigeon poops on your shoulder. You conclude that nothing ever goes your way (Over-generalization).
After a job interview you come home, sit down on your couch and say “I feel like a loser, so I must be a loser” (Emotional Reasoning).
And here are 10 most common examples of cognitive distortions that we hear most often from family, friends and co-workers and can be found in Dr. David Burns book "Feeling Good."
Disqualifying the Positive
Jumping to Conclusions
Magnification and Minimization
Labeling and Mislabeling
Why Do Cognitive Distortions Create Stress?
But why?! Why do such intelligent, empathetic individuals repetitively beat themselves up with such negative behaviors? Do we adopt these “skills” from our parents as a child? Or perhaps there is an evolutionary advantage to saying “Fu#K” or “Sh!t” every time we drop a pen or stub a toe?!
Kopely believes that cognitive distortions exist because of our ego. They help us tell our story- why we are not happy, why we didn’t get into our dream school, why we didn't get the promotion or why our lives suck. Another way we like to explain cognitive distortions is through our sunglass analogy.
Imagine a world where you wore sunglasses with a red tint all day, everyday. Everyone else in this world also wore sunglasses but had a different color tint lense. You will spend your days convincing yourself and everyone around you that the world is red. Yet, your best friend is trying to convince you that the world is yellow.
Many things in the world happen at random: our health, our circumstances and luck. Cognitive distortions help us in the short-term to explain why things are. They give us a sense of clarity in such a forever changing world. The problem with persisting cognitive distortions is that they may affect your today and your tomorrow (from relationships to accomplishing your goals). Distorted thinking is distorted. Despite giving you comfort, cognitive distortions add more fuel to your stress fire.
Cognitive distortions create more stress in your life because you are perpetuating all the reasons why you aren’t successful, why you hate your life and why you can’t find your one and only dream partner. Not only that, you are delaying any opportunities to improve yourself. We are humans, no one is even close to perfect. If you prioritize illogical, untrue thoughts then that means you are not prioritizing learning the skills, tools and tactics to become a better person so that you can land that next big job, pass your medical boards or become a better spouse.
If your goal is to relieve stress you have to first know that you may have negative habits that are feeding your stress like cognitive distortions. We hope that this article helps to uncover some of those truths. Once you start to pick up on your distorted thoughts you can then start resolving them by questioning them. Test each though with logic and see if your negative statements hold up to the truth or if you are jumping to conclusions or reasoning with your emotions.
And, if you want to be one of Kopely's first users for our Stress Relief App, sign-up here. Launch date- TBA!