In this short series about faulty thinking (cognitive distortions) first we looked at the list of 10 cognitive distortions such as all-or-nothing thinking, over-generalization and magnification or minimisation, which are commonly associated with lots of mental health disorders i.e. depression, anxiety,
Then we considered how our Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT’s) are often related to a distortion that we may or may not realize we have. Let’s say, a friend on the opposite side of the road passes you by, your first ANT might be “She just ignored me.” which might lead to “She doesn’t like me anymore.” When in actual fact, she might not have seen you or she may have worries of her own to think about.
We also addressed how learning to Decatastophise is useful when you need to talk yourself out of a catastrophising situation.
You had worksheets for both these exercises and I suggest that you practice completing them until you feel confident you’ve changed at least one cognitive distortion, then move onto the next. Practice, practice, practice — you wouldn’t expect to be able to give a presentation in Russian if you’ve only ever had one Russian lesson. So practicing is the answer.
This post will now cover three more exercises to help you change your faulty thinking (cognitive distortions).
Dysfunctional Thought Record
This worksheet is especially helpful for people who struggle with negative thoughts and need to work out when and why those thoughts are most likely to crop up. Learning more about what provokes certain automatic thoughts makes them easier to address and reverse.
The worksheet is divided into seven columns:
- On the far left, there is space to write down the date and time a dysfunctional thought arose.
- The second column is where the situation is listed. Describe the event that led up to the dysfunctional thought in detail.
- The third column is for the automatic thought. This is where your dysfunctional automatic thought is recorded, along with a rating of belief in the thought on a scale from 0% to 100% (0 = don’t believe this thought at all and 100 = believe this thought completely).
The next column is where the emotion(s) elicited by this thought are listed, also with a rating of intensity on a scale from 0% to 100%.
- Use this fifth column to note the dysfunctional thought that will be addressed. Example maladaptive thoughts include distortions such as over-inflating the negative while dismissing the positive of a situation, or overgeneralizing. Use our Cognitive Distortions List to help you.
- The second-to-last column is for you to write down alternative thoughts that are more positive and functional to replace the negative one.
- Finally, the last column is for you to write down the outcome of this exercise. Were you able to confront the dysfunctional thought? Did you write down a convincing alternative thought? Did your belief in the thought and/or the intensity of your emotion(s) decrease?
A brilliant CBT tool is this Fact Checking Thoughts Worksheet because it can be extremely helpful in recognizing that your thoughts are not necessarily true.
At the top of this worksheet is an important lesson: Thoughts are not facts.
Of course, it can be hard to accept this, especially when we are in the throes of a dysfunctional thought or intense emotion. Filling out this worksheet can help you come to this realization; thoughts are not facts.
The worksheet includes 16 statements that the user must decide are either fact or opinion. These statements include:
- I’m a bad person.
- I failed the test.
- I’m selfish.
- I didn’t lend my friend money when they asked.
This is not a trick—there is a right answer for each of these statements. (In case you’re wondering, the correct answers for the statements above are as follows: opinion, fact, opinion, fact.)
This simple exercise can help you see that while we have lots of emotionally charged thoughts, they are not all objective truths. Recognizing the difference between fact and opinion can assist us in challenging the dysfunctional or harmful opinions we have about ourselves and others.
This worksheet employs the use of Socratic questioning, a technique that can help you to challenge irrational or illogical thoughts.
The first page of the worksheet has a thought bubble for “What I’m Thinking”. You can use this space to write down a specific thought, usually, one you suspect is destructive or irrational.
Next, you write down the facts supporting and contradicting this thought as a reality. What facts about this thought being accurate? What facts call it into question? Once you have identified the evidence, you can use the last box to make a judgment on this thought, specifically whether it is based on evidence or simply your opinion.
The next page is a mind map of Socratic Questions which can be used to further challenge the thought. You may wish to re-write “What I’m Thinking” in the centre so it is easier to challenge the thought against these questions.
- One question asks whether this thought is truly a black-and-white situation, or whether reality leaves room for shades of grey. This is where you think about (and write down) whether you are using all-or-nothing thinking, for example, or making things unreasonably simple when they are complex.
- Another asks whether you could be misinterpreting the evidence or making any unverified assumptions. As with all the other bubbles, writing it down will make this exercise more effective.
- A third bubble instructs you to think about whether other people might have different interpretations of the same situation, and what those interpretations might be.
- Next, ask yourself whether you are looking at all the relevant evidence or just the evidence that backs up the belief you already hold. Try to be as objective as possible.
- It also helps to ask yourself whether your thought may an over-inflation of a truth. Some negative thoughts are based in truth but extend past their logical boundaries.
- You’re also instructed to consider whether you are entertaining this negative thought out of habit or because the facts truly support it.
- Then, think about how this thought came to you. Was it passed on from someone else? If so, is that person a reliable source of truth?
- Finally, you complete the worksheet by identifying how likely the scenario your thought brings up actually is, and whether it is the worst-case scenario.
Recap. Today we’ve looked at the Dysfunctional thought record, Fact checking thoughts and Cognitive restructuring. You have worksheets that you can use to identify your faulty thinking by fact checking and Socratic questioning.
I hope you’ll try some of the exercises and let me know how you got on. If you didn’t complete any of the exercises, why not? What stopped you? I’d love to get your thoughts.