The next time you feel stressed take a second and notice what you are thinking. For most of us one stressed thought leads to another and to another sending us in a stress spiral that leads nowhere good.
I call these sneaky thought spirals in session. Lots of us get swept away in them.
What we think impacts how we feel emotionally and physically. When we are feeling sad or anxious our thoughts can be quite dramatic and absolute. This leads to more emotional and physical discomfort- which can be a really draining cycle.
These thoughts are often called “cognitive distortions” in psychology, meaning the way you’re thinking doesn’t necessarily match up with the reality of what’s going on.
Thinking Spirals in Psychology
Psychological research has categorized certain types of thinking that are irrational or inaccurate, or otherwise lead to problems with mood. These kinds of thinking are often called cognitive distortions. These errors in thinking or thoughts put us in a bad mood.
Most of us fall into one or more of these thinking spiral more frequently than others as a default pattern of thinking in stress. Knowing your patterns of thinking can help you notice and ultimately avoid a negative thinking spiral. It can also help you from feeling overwhelmed by problematic thoughts.
I’ve provided a list of Thinking Spirals here. Remember that we all think these ways from time to time. Which thinking spirals are most common for you?
Thinking Spirals List
The following thought patterns can seem small but are very powerful. The more stressed we become, the more our thinking narrows making it difficult to think in balanced ways. Often just identifying which spiral we’re caught in can take some of it’s power away.
Seeing things as only good or only bad. Black or white, all or nothing, perfection or failure.
Using one tiny piece of evidence to draw a large or long term conclusion.
Assuming in advance what other people think or feel- without asking them. Sometimes this also means not believing them when they tell you otherwise.
Expecting things to turn out for the absolute worst.
Predicting the Future
Worrying about the future and believing your worries will come true without rational analysis.
Assuming things have to do with or are caused by you without checking.
Filtering out all the positive information and focusing only on the negative.
Sizing yourself and others up in endless comparison or competition. Comparison is the thief of joy.
Take time to notice your sneaky thought spirals this week. Which occur most frequwntly? Which are easiest to stop?