Six More Thoughts Bringing You Down (and How You Can Correct Them)

This is a follow-up article to Six Thoughts Bringing You Down (and How You Can Correct Them). Here are six more negative thoughts and ways they can be fixed.

By Rachel Amity, MSW Candidate, U-M Athletic Counseling Team

Have you ever caught yourself thinking about things in a way that makes you feel sad, frustrated, or less confident? Many of us slip into ways of thinking that make us feel unsure of our abilities. These types of thoughts are called cognitive distortions. They trick us into thinking and feeling that certain things are true, even if those thoughts and feelings aren’t supported by facts. Below is a list of some of the most common distortions, how they might be affecting your life, and what you can do about them.

Cognitive Distortions Take Home Sheet (PDF)

7. Emotional Reasoning

You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are.

Ex: You have been injured, so you’ve missed a couple of practices. You start telling yourself “I feel like a bad teammate, therefore I must be a bad teammate.”
Ex: You feel lonely, so you deduce that no one cares about you.

8. Should Statements

You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. Sometimes, we apply “should,” “ought to,” or “must” to other people. The results are often frustrating.

Ex: You tell yourself that you should be lifting more, you should be faster, or you should be able to manage your classes and practices better. In reality, you are getting good grades with the help of tutors, and your coaches are impressed by your determination during practices.
Ex: You expect to get an A in the class you’re taking this semester because friends have told you it’s an easy A. You end up with an A-, which will still boost your GPA, but you are disappointed because you didn’t get the outcome you thought you should have gotten.

9-10. Jumping to Conclusions & Fortune Telling

You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.

You predict things will turn out badly, even if you have no real evidence for that prediction.

Ex: Before a game you tell yourself “we’re going to lose,” or after an injury you tell yourself, “I’ll be out for the whole season now,” even though the doctor hasn’t told you their impression yet.
Ex: After a job interview, you tell yourself “I’m not going to get the job.”

11. Mind Reading

Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you.

Ex: A coach that you usually get along well with snapped at you today because they are having some issues at home, but you assume it is because they think you aren’t playing as well as you used to.
Ex: You walk into class late, and assume everyone is looking at you, thinking about and judging you for your tardiness.

12. Magical Thinking

You believe that your own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world.

Ex: You usually wear one of three pairs of socks for gameday, but you got a new pair this week. You wore them to the game this weekend and you lost, so you tell yourself that you lost because you wore different socks.
Ex: You think things going wrong in your life will improve when you achieve some other goal. You will be happier when you lose weight or you will have more friends if you were smarter.

What to do

Did some of those sound familiar? Take a moment to reflect on the times that you may have found yourself thinking in these ways. Did it change your feelings, emotions, or ability to perform academically, socially, or physically? If so, you are not alone. These cognitive distortions are common, but in their more extreme forms, they can be harmful to our well being. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to help recognize them and reduce the harm they cause.

Notice your feelings.
How are the thoughts going through your head making you feel? What emotion am I having? What did I notice in my body?

Are the thoughts helpful?
What are you responding to? What did those thoughts, images, or memories say about this situation?

Search for evidence.
What evidence do you have that supports the thought you’re having? What facts provide evidence against the unhelpful thoughts?

Find alternatives
What would someone else say about this situation? What advice would you give to someone else who was going through this? Is there another way to think about this?

Change your situation or do something to stop the thought. Recognizing that thoughts come and go, we can choose to pay attention and hold onto them, or to let them go. Sometimes by doing something different, it helps let go of the thought more quickly, and therefore, it will have less chance to impact the way you feel and perform.

Additional Resources

Athletes Connected Get Support Page

U-M Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Campus Mind Works – U-M website supporting student mental health.