Rewiring Negative Thoughts Wrap Up

CONGRATULATIONS, YOU’VE COMPLETED OUR REWIRING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS COURSE!

By owning my mind, I own my life.” – Harry, age 37

If someone thinks positively about something, they’re more likely to feel positively about it. Conversely, if they think negatively about something—whether or not that thought is supported by evidence—they will feel negatively.

As we learned in this course, cognitive restructuring is the process of identifying and challenging negative and irrational thoughts, called cognitive distortions. Although everyone has some cognitive distortions, having our thoughts distorted by too many of them is often  a key factor underlying depression.

When looking at other people’s cognitive distortions, they may seem easy to dispute – no matter how much your friend believes that they’re the “worst person ever”, you know that to be untrue. But when it comes to our own cognitive distortions, they can be much more difficult to overcome. When we’re depressed, we tend to believe in our own cognitive distortions, no matter how inaccurate they may be. 

Cognitive distortions can happen so quickly that they come and go before we’ve noticed them. They’re more like a reflex than an intentional behaviour.

This course introduced us to the Cognitive Restructuring Activity Sheet, which helps us put our thoughts under inspection, scoping out the situations that triggered them, the automatic negative thoughts that were provoked, the feelings that emerged, and how we responded behaviourally. 

Through the use of the activity sheet, we can carefully analyze our thoughts, judge the merit of them by considering evidence supporting or not supporting the thoughts, and developing a more realistic, balanced, and adaptive perspective to replace the negative thoughts.

The reflective process of using the Cognitive Restructuring Activity Sheet helps retrain our minds, by increasing our awareness of patterns and ways to respond to them more effectively. With enough repetition, we will be able to imprint the steps of cognitive restructuring into our subconscious mind so that we can draw upon them in the heat of the moment and thereby prevent the cascade of negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviours that underlie depression.

The point about repetition cannot be overstated. Much like a simple physiotherapy exercise that needs to be done over and over again to be helpful when rehabbing an injury, we need to practice the steps of cognitive restructuring repeatedly in order to really benefit from it. 

It’s important to keep in mind that while cognitive restructuring is a useful self-help tool, sometimes it’s not enough to keep depression at bay. Talk therapy can be extremely helpful in fighting depression and a trained therapist can help examine underlying issues that may be affecting your thoughts.

Below are some more examples to help out:

Negative thoughts around not keeping up with goals for physical activity

Situation

  • I set a goal for myself to walk 30 minutes three times per week. Yesterday, I went for a walk, but I only went half as far as I was hoping. I didn’t give myself credit for the brief walk I did.

Thoughts

  • ‘I can’t motivate myself to do anything.’ 
  • ‘I’m lazy.’
  • ‘I’m so out of shape and I’m not able to make any progress.’

Feelings

  • Frustrated, Angry, Hopeless

Behaviours

  • Ate junk food to console myself. 
  • Scrolled through instagram and thought about how much more in shape everyone else is.

Alternate Thoughts

  • Evidence for: 
    • I gained 2 pounds this week.
  • Evidence against:
    • I met my walking goal the past three weeks.
    • Recently, I’ve been eating healthier.
    • My friends say they only post their best pictures on instagram and that it does not always reflect reality.
  • Alternate thought:  
    • ‘I didn’t have the best workout today, but in the past few weeks I have made good progress. I need to give myself credit for efforts I make toward my goal, even if I don’t quite reach my goal. As long as I’m generally moving in the right direction, that’s what counts.’

Negative thoughts triggered by seeing a picture of an ex on social media

Situation

  • I saw a picture of my ex on Instagram.

Thoughts

  • ‘My ex looks like she’s having so much fun and here I am all alone. I’m such a loser.’
  • ‘I wasn’t good enough for her. ‘I’ll never be good enough for anyone.’
  • I’m going to be alone forever.’

Feelings

  • Lonely, Sad, Hopeless

Behaviours

  • I cancelled a date that I had planned because I knew she probably wouldn’t find me interesting enough for her.
  • I laid in bed ruminating about things I should’ve done differently with my ex.

Alternate Thoughts

  • Evidence for: 
    • I’m single and alone right now.
  • Evidence against:
    • I have been in relationships with women before my ex.
    • I’ve been on some dates since breaking up with my ex; I just haven’t connected strongly with anyone yet.
    • I can’t meet people if I stay at home ruminating about my ex; I have my own life to live.
  • Alternate thoughts:  
    • ‘I still miss my ex, but we just weren’t able to make it work. Staying at home wallowing in sorrow won’t help me meet other people. I’ve had success meeting other women before and after that relationship. As long as I continue to put myself out there, I’m bound to find someone special.’ 

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Next Steps

You may also be interested in our Mindfulness for Men Course, which can help you develop a complimentary skillset for managing intense thoughts and emotions, providing you with more strategies for recovering from and preventing depression.

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