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The Secret to Being Mentally Strong? Remove These 10 Errors from Your Mind

The Secret to Being Mentally Strong? Remove These 10 Errors from Your Mind

You may think thoughts are inconsequential – coming and going in a sometimes meaningful or meaningless way. But the thoughts we have and the way we think are more substantial than you may realise.

Getting into patterns of thought and creating different beliefs essentially shape our lives and our outlook on ourselves, how we perceive others and the world around us.

We can choose to think positive or negative thoughts on any given subject but, as humans, our tendency is to go straight to the negative which can have a detrimental effect on our mental strength.

Fixing Common Thinking Errors Can Bring You Lifelong Benefits

Making a conscious effort to notice our negative thought patterns and stopping them, takes great habit but it’s not impossible. It can be hard to undo a lifetime of thinking. But if you do find your thoughts are erring on the side of negative ask yourself, you should ask yourself: are they really benefiting me?

Here I’ll be going through 10 thinking errors and why they aren’t serving you. See if you identify with any of them and make today the day you start thinking differently.

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10 Most Common Thinking Errors You Should Get Rid of

Overgeneralising

We create core negative beliefs through overgeneralising but the reason we do this is because it’s easy to fall into the trap. If we failed badly at something then we apply that belief to every time we attempt that thing again and more. Say you were in a relationship where the other person cheated on you or treated you badly – overgeneralising would be to believe all men (or women) cheat or that you’ll always be treated badly in relationships.

Don’t push the outcome of one contained situation onto other areas of your life.

Ignoring the Positive

Have you found that if one thing goes badly in your day that’s all you can focus on? We tend to choose to ignore and filter out any positives even though they massively outweigh that one negative.

Try and make a habit of picking out and focusing on all the positive aspects of the day whether it was your smooth commute to work, your partner bringing you a cup of morning coffee, the delicious lunch you had – decide to look at these things and conclude that positivity is all around you. Don’t ruin a day by focusing on a single negative.

Taking Things Personally

It’s natural to feel like the world revolves around us but sometimes our thinking can cause us to only see things from our perspective and how we feel about a situation. If someone at work is short with you, you suddenly assume you’ve done something wrong. If your friend doesn’t text back straight away, then she must be angry at you for some reason.

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But most of the time it’s nothing to do with you but more to do with them. Don’t be so quick to make it about yourself and understand other people are going through different negative emotions that aren’t related to you. When this kind of situation happens, make a point of realising that other factors could be influencing another person’s reaction.

Negative Emotional Reasoning

When negative emotions come up it’s best to not let them influence our thoughts. But it’s very easy to believe the connection our mind makes with our negative emotions – if you feel you’re a bad person, it doesn’t actually mean that you are. If you’re feeling down and conclude you’re a loser, this doesn’t mean you are a loser!

Ride out any emotional reasoning and put it down to a blip – don’t make conclusions about yourself as a result of them.

Magnifying or Minimising

Negative expectations can cause us to think the ‘what if’ questions. If I quit my job what if I don’t find another one? What if I hate the new job? What if I hate the people I work with? And of course, this kind of thinking can stop us from making decisions we probably deep-down want to make. This is magnifying a situation in an unnecessary negative way.

On the other end of the spectrum, we can also minimise things especially positive and desirable aspects of ourselves. Both are detrimental to living our life in a confident and real way.

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Making Assumptions about What Others Are Thinking

Everyone sometimes makes assumptions about what others’ perceptions are on any given topic. But we can never really know what’s going on in someone else’s mind. If you have the tendency to believe people think badly or negatively of you then remember that most people are too busy worrying about themselves to truly care what you’re wearing, saying or how you act. Don’t put so much emphasis on assumptions.

Black and White Thinking

Sometimes it’s easy to think things are either one thing or another, in other words, all or nothing – good or bad. But this kind of limited thinking filters out all the shades of grey.

By doing this you don’t see every aspect of something – for example, if every project is a success or a failure then you can’t see the opportunities to grow or better any mistakes along the way that may lead to a completely different idea or direction. Remember the world is multi-faceted so make your perspective the same way.

Focusing on the ‘Shoulds’

Society has made us feel we need to live our lives in a certain way. A lot of the time we make decisions because we feel we should but who exactly is saying you should? Is it based on a set of rules made by other people? Is it because your family expect it of you?

Next time you feel yourself saying you should do something despite it making you unhappy, question why. Make up your own ‘shoulds’ that are based on what makes you happy.

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The Blame Game

When we have negative emotional reactions we can easily push the blame on to others. But only we can be held responsible for how we react to people and situations. Don’t hold other people responsible – no one can make us feel the way we feel except us. Once you get to grips with this, it can not only be empowering but greatly improve your relationships with others.

The Need to Always Be Right

This is a hugely common trait in many of us. How many times do you feel frustrated that someone has a different opinion or perspective than you? That constant need to prove that you’re right and they’re wrong is a mindset that can be changed.

Understanding that everyone is going through life with different challenges, experiences and perspectives is what makes this world an exciting place. Be cognisant of how others feel when voicing your opinion and respect theirs. Don’t feel like you always have to be right because sometimes you just might not be.

So remember, the way we think has far more influence on the shaping of our lives than you may realise. Changing negative thought patterns is a huge step towards creating a more positive mindset and outlook for the benefit of yourself and others.

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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