How to overcome thinking traps, and what are they anyway? How we think can influence our mood and our study outcomes. But consciously manipulating our thoughts makes us dishonest with ourselves and is pretty futile. Besides, our thoughts shouldn’t always have to be positive. We need the balance to ground us in reality.
At the same time, we don’t want to fall into thinking traps that have us doubting ourselves and worrying about things we don’t need to. So how can we avoid spiralling into more negative thinking too often, especially as the mind naturally tends to worry, criticise, complain and doubt?
So how to overcome thinking traps?
The answer to how to overcome thinking traps lies in being more conscious of our thinking so we can get ourselves out of unhelpful thinking traps when we are aware of them.
Here are some ideas on how to overcome thinking traps and some common ones to be aware of:
1. Black-and-white thinking
This is generalised thinking where we tend to make sweeping statements that come down on one side or another without considering any grey in between. Since young, we have been taught to draw all or nothing comparisons, so it is easy to slip into this black and white thinking.
To avoid this thinking trap, acknowledge that there are grey areas when you are presented with a black and white situation. Ask yourself if there are reasons in between that you can accept.
2. Jumping to conclusions
Our brains tend to race ahead and allow us to draw conclusions that are not based on the full facts. While it is good to react quickly in circumstances where it benefits us, we sometimes need to look at all the facts first. What are you basing your assumptions on? Facts that have already happened? Or a fear of what might happen? Jumping to conclusions can lead to us to getting anxious for no valid reason.
To avoid this thinking trap, ask yourself if your thoughts are based on facts that have already happened or a fear of what might happen. Realise that there is no point worrying about what hasn’t yet happened.
3. Mental filter
We often draw a conclusion to believe a fact without looking for the evidence to back it up. For example, “I’m not good at maths” may not be a statement based in fact, but an assumption based on negative experiences that have nothing to do with your ability to do maths. We tend to remember the incidences that prove our point and conveniently forget those that don’t.
To avoid this thinking trap, slow down and explore the evidence. Complete the picture.
In short, next time you find yourself falling into a thinking trap, remind your brain to be fair and open, curious rather than judgmental. There’s always more to the picture than you are looking at. Then you are well on your way to understanding how to overcome thinking traps.