Whenever you find yourself feeling depressed, angry, anxious or upset, use this as your signal to stop and become aware of your thoughts. Use your feelings as your cue to reflect on your thinking.
A good way to test the accuracy of your perceptions might be to ask yourself some challenging questions. These questions will help you to check out your self-talk to see whether your current view is reasonable. This will also help you discover other ways of thinking about your situation.
There are four main types of challenging questions to ask yourself:
1. Reality testing
What is my evidence for and against my thinking?
Are my thoughts factual, or are they just my interpretations?
Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
How can I find out if my thoughts are actually true?
2. Look for alternative explanations
Are there any other ways that I could look at this situation?
What else could this mean?
If I were being positive, how would I perceive this situation?
3. Putting it in perspective
Is this situation as bad as I am making out to be?
What is the worst thing that could happen? How likely is it?
What is the best thing that could happen?
What is most likely to happen?
Is there anything good about this situation?
Will this matter in five years time?
When you feel anxious, depressed or stressed-out your self-talk is likely to become extreme, you’ll be more likely to expect the worst and focus on the most negative aspects of your situation. So, it’s helpful to try and put things into their proper perspective.
4. Using goal-directed thinking
Is thinking this way helping me to feel good or to achieve my goals?
What can I do that will help me solve the problem?
Is there something I can learn from this situation, to help me do it better next time?
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Cognitive distortions are exaggerated or irrational thought patterns that are believed to perpetuate the effects of psychopathological states, especially depression and anxiety.
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