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Last Updated on February 1, 2021

4 Steps of Cognitive Restructuring to Help You Think Clearly

4 Steps of Cognitive Restructuring to Help You Think Clearly

Humans are guilty of having less than rational thoughts. We might assume the worst is going to happen or jump to conclusions before we have all the information. Cognitive restructuring helps people become aware of their irrational thoughts so that they can correct them and replace them with more rational ways of thinking, which can help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, anger, and trauma.

Cognitive restructuring is a major part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which was developed by Aaron Beck in the 1960s. Beck linked his patients’ symptoms with their distorted thinking and hypothesized that if he could help his patients recognize their distorted thinking, he could help them alleviate their mental health symptoms.[1]

David Burns then popularized Beck’s ideas in the 1980s with his book Feeling Good.[2]

Cognitive restructuring is at the heart of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It is the four-step process that helps people recognize their distorted thoughts in order to change them.

Cognitive Distortions

I spoke with Margot Escott, LSCW[3] about how she uses cognitive restructuring in her therapy practice in Naples, Florida, and she explained that she begins the process by making her clients aware of the types of cognitive distortions.

Escott hands her clients a list of cognitive distortions[4] and asks them to spend a week thinking about which ones resonate with them.

The following are examples of various cognitive distortions:

Mental Filtering

This happens when a person picks out only one (usually negative) detail of a situation and focuses only on the emotions and behaviors associated with it.

For example, perhaps a son throws a surprise birthday party for his mom. Everything goes off without a hitch, but the cake ends up being the wrong flavor. With mental filtering, the son will focus on that one detail and feel that the whole thing was a failure.

Black and White Thinking

When this occurs, a person cannot see any middle ground and perceives a situation as all or nothing.

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Overgeneralization

Overgeneralization is very common and happens when a person jumps to a conclusion without enough information.

Catastrophizing

This way of thinking comes about when a person thinks the worst outcome will occur. This often happens with people who fear flying. Despite the fact that flying is the safest form of travel, they will begin to believe the plane will crash each time they get on one.

Personalization

Generally occurring in people with low self-esteem or paranoia, this happens when someone thinks that everything people do or say is about them.

Should Statements

These statements come about when someone compares themselves and others to perceived universal standards. We may see this in young girls who, after seeing commercials advertising beauty products, begin to say “I should be thinner/prettier.”

Mind Reading

This can happen when someone assumes what someone else is thinking without verification.

Fortune Telling

People are generally very concerned about the future, and this can lead some to assume how things will unfold, usually through negative thought patterns.

Emotional Reasoning

This happens when a person assumes their emotions reflect how reality actually is.

Labeling

Labeling comes about when someone makes broad statements or generalizations about themselves or others based on situation-specific behavior. For example, if you make a mistake and conclude that you are dumb or a failure, this is labeling.

Each list of cognitive distortions is different, but this will give you a general idea of the kind of irrational thinking cognitive restructuring aims to correct.

The 4 Steps of Cognitive Restructuring

When you seek to engage in cognitive restructuring, there are four major steps you will need to follow.

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1. Make It Conscious

The process starts by making our automatic thoughts conscious. The first step requires you to take a kind of inventory of your potentially problematic ways of thinking. Before you can change your thoughts, you have to become aware of how you’re thinking—no judgment or correction yet.

You can take an inventory of your automatic thoughts for a week, or you can explore them in therapy with a trained professional. Escott asks her clients to identify cognitive distortions they noticed during one week.

Either way, the first step is essential because we can’t correct problematic, automatic thinking without becoming aware of what we’re thinking in the first place.

2. Evaluate It

Next, it’s time to begin generating more rational thoughts. Once you’ve taken an inventory of your thoughts, you can start to sort out which ones seem rational and which ones don’t.

For example, if you say something like, “I’m never going to meet my life partner,” you can lump this thought into the unproductive/unhealthy/negative category because you aren’t a fortune teller and certainly don’t know whether or not you’ll meet someone.

Step 2 establishes that this is a thought worth changing.

3. Get Rational

Once we’ve identified a thought as problematic or unhealthy, we can identify why it’s problematic in the first place. This is when we begin to ask why we think this is true, whether it really is true, and how often it’s true.

The idea behind step 3 is to identify how our thinking is a cognitive distortion and what the reality actually is.

4. Replace It

Finally, generate alternatives to the cognitive distortion with a more rational thought. Our automatic thoughts are habitual, so the idea isn’t to stop cognitive distortions but to catch ourselves when we’re distorting reality and quickly replace the distortion with a more rational thought.

If I catch myself thinking that my boss hates me, I need to remind myself that I’m mind reading. Then, every time I catch myself in the act of mind reading that my boss hates me, I can replace that distortion with something like, “I don’t know whether or not my boss hates me unless I ask, but I do know that I got a positive performance review and a raise last month.”

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The idea is to replace cognitive distortions with more rational ways of thinking, but this requires a lot of reflection and self-awareness. You can certainly try it on your own, but it’s often better to have a trained professional guide you through the process.

Example of Cognitive Restructuring

Let’s say I catch myself catastrophizing. I notice that sometimes I say that I will lose my job and not be able to pay my bills and then lose my home and my family.

Cognitive restructuring asks me to confront that cognitive distortion[5].

Cognitive restructuring - Dawnguide

    The first step is for me to become aware of that thought and catch myself every time I slip into catastrophizing.

    Next, I ask myself if it’s true, and if you’re trying to predict the future, you can know this isn’t true. This is where mindfulness practice comes in handy.[6] According to Escott, mindfulness is a great way for people to practice living more in the present moment, which can also reduce some cognitive distortions, such as catastrophizing.

    Now, I don’t know whether or not I will lose my job, and I can’t even answer how often this cognitive distortion is true, so I move on to step 3.

    Now, you should reflect through specific questions. Why do I think I’m going to lose my job? Maybe my parents lost their jobs, which added a lot of stress to the family when I was a child. Maybe I feel like an imposter and am not confident about some of my financial decisions.

    In step 3, I come up with something more rational. I can start telling myself that I don’t know whether or not I’m going to lose my job. All I can focus on is doing the best job I can. If there is a chance I will lose my job, I can spend time networking on LinkedIn instead of catastrophizing.

    I can also tell myself that linking the loss of my job with losing everything is not rational. I can make a list of all the things I could do if I actually did lose my job that would prevent me from losing the other things in my life.

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    Finally, I replace “I’m going to lose my job” with a more rational thought each time I catch myself catastrophizing. I might remind myself, “I don’t know the odds of me losing my job, but I do know that I have seniority and just got a raise. And if I do lose this job, I could always go back to working at my father-in-law’s store.”

    It’s probably better to be pithier when you’re replacing automatic distortions, but this gives you a good idea of how to get started.

    Effectiveness of Cognitive Restructuring

    Science has shown that cognitive restructuring works. In one study[7], cognitive restructuring was more effective in reducing anxiety and worry than a control group and a group that was taught relaxation techniques.

    The idea is that cognitive restructuring forces people to fix their automatic thoughts. Escott explains that this process is effective because our thoughts become our feelings, which affect our overall well-being.

    The Bottom Line

    Cognitive restructuring addresses the root of the problem: our cognitive distortions. So, the next time you catch yourself overgeneralizing or catastrophizing, take a step back. Ask yourself if that’s really true and how often it’s true. Develop a more rational line of thinking and then replace the distortion with a more realistic thought.

    Cognitive restructuring may not be as easy as 1, 2, 3, 4, but if you’re willing to get reflective and self-aware and do the work, it can have measurable effects on reducing your trauma, stress, anger, and depression, and anxiety symptoms.

    I want to reiterate that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a modality best done by trained professionals. For those of you who need help or want to get deeper into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and cognitive restructuring, please search for trained mental health professionals in your area.

    More Tips on Changing Your Thoughts

    Featured photo credit: Benjamin Davies via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Clay Drinko

    Clay Drinko is an educator and the author of PLAY YOUR WAY SANE (January 2021 Simon & Schuster)

    What Is Double Loop Learning And How Is It Valuable? 6 Scientific Ways to Improve Your Cognitive Thinking 4 Steps of Cognitive Restructuring to Help You Think Clearly How To Improve Your Visual-Spatial Skills aural-learner 7 Characteristics of an Aural Learner and How They Learn Best

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    Last Updated on February 23, 2021

    5 Best Fish Oil Supplements to Buy For A Healthier Brain

    5 Best Fish Oil Supplements to Buy For A Healthier Brain

    There are many ways that we can make our brains healthier. We use our brains constantly, but we train them through studying, learning, and recalling, among other things. But the issue with these methods is that they only help support particular parts of the brain. They are specialized activities that require certain parts of the rain to work, but they do not support the brain as a whole. So, if you’re looking for ways to help every part of your brain, the best thing you can consider is getting the best fish oil supplements.

    Like with all kinds of supplements, fish oil supplements provide a high dosage of vitamins that help support and improve particular parts of your body.

    The Benefits of Fish Oil

    Fish oil is one of the most common dietary supplements used by people. Broadly speaking, these supplements are rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are great for your health in many ways. Below are just some of their most important, proven benefits:

    • Studies show that those who eat fish are at a lower risk of experiencing heart problems.[1] Supplements like these are common and provide the same health benefits as eating fish
    • Omega-3 also boosts brain function, reducing various mental conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia.[2]
    • Fish oil supplements can also reduce weight and prevent type-2 diabetes and even some cancers.[3]
    • They can also help improve eyesight as our eyes greatly rely on omega-3 fats.[4]

    Why Fish Oil Supplements Help Boost Your Energy

    As you can tell from the benefits already, having high omega-3 levels greatly and positively impacts our brains. Not only can it prevent mental disorders, but it also has ways of alleviating mood swings, depression, and fatigue. Research shows that consuming lower amounts of omega-3s can result in more mood swings, fatigue, and depression.[5]

    Therefore, having a daily dose of fish oil supplements is a way of keeping yourself energized, especially since fatigue primarily stems from our brain. If your brain is filled with energy and isn’t feeling sluggish, your body will also feel the same way.

    How To Pick the Best Fish Oil Supplements

    When selecting some of the best fish oil supplements available on the market, we based our decision on the following criteria:

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    • High in Omega-3 – Every fish oil supplement will have Omega-3 and it’s a vital ingredient, but many brands vary on how much their products contain this fatty acid. We selected the ones that have a high amount.
    • Has multiple vitamins – Even though supplements are designed to have many vitamins, the benefits can be self-contained in certain areas and don’t synergize. The ones we selected provide benefits that help your body in multiple ways.
    • Purity – Supplements can often be grounds to include all kinds of unnecessary ingredients. The ones we picked are packed with only the essential vitamins you need.

    5 Best Fish Oil Supplements

    Here are the 5 best fish oil supplements we picked that you should definitely try:

    1. Infuel Omega 3 Fish Oil

      Our first pick of the best fish oil supplement available is the Infuel brand of Omega 3 fish oil. We have this available in our own stores because of the numerous benefits that it provides. Not only does it contain the Omega 3 healthy fats but also high EPA and DHA content that helps with the growth and development of the eyes, nervous system, and heart.[6]

      As such, you’ll find regular doses of these promoting brain and heart health. It also helps with maintaining healthy bones and joints and can help improve your skin and sleep cycle.

      Buy the Infuel Omega 3 Fish Oil Here.

      2. California Gold Nutrition Omega 3 Premium Fish Oil

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        Our second pick for the best fish oil supplements is the supplement provided by California Gold Nutrition. Their premium fish oil supplement has gone through a process where the supplement provides a respectable amount of EPA and DHA (360mg and 240mg respectively) as well as fish oil. It’s to the point where it’s recommended that you take two of these capsules per day.

        Their process also ensures that the softgels the supplement comes in are porcine, bovine-free, and don’t contain gluten, GMOs, and soy. Overall, if you’re looking for an option to having plenty of fish oil, this is a great option.

        Pick up California Gold Nutrition’s Fish Oil Supplement here.

        3. Sports Research Omega 3 Fish Oil Triple Strength

          For those looking for a higher dosage of fish oil, EPA, and DHA, one option is the fish oil supplement from Sports Research. Unlike the other options on this list, this fish oil supplement is marketed as a dietary supplement. The reason for that is because a single Omega 3 softgel already contains over 80% of your daily dose of fish oil as well as 950mg of EPA and DHA.[7] The dosage amount easily exceeds the Global Organization’s minimum contents of EPA and DHA.

          Beyond that, it’s also made from non-GMO ingredients, and it’s gluten-free. This fish oil supplement is also made from sustainable seafood.

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          Purchase Sports Research Fish Oil Supplement here.

          4. Natrol Omega 3 Fish Oil Natural Lemon Flavor

            One factor that people might have that we didn’t mention on the list is flavor. While what we offer is quality, sometimes, people can’t handle the flavor of some quality products. So, for those who have a particular taste for vitamins, one option to consider is Natrol’s fish oil supplement. This supplement offers a natural lemon flavor thanks to its natural lemon oil ingredient.

            Beyond that, you can expect a middle-of-the-road amount of EPA, DHA, and fish oil with the company suggesting to take one softgel two times a day with a meal. The only real downside to this particular supplement is that you’re giving up a few details and benefits for better flavor. Unlike the other supplements mentioned, this does contain gelatine from bovine, though it’s kept at a minimum.

            Buy Natrol’s Omega 3 Fish Oil Supplement here.

            5. Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil

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              The final fish oil supplement on this list is the one from Nature’s Bounty. Nature’s Bounty has been committed to people’s health for almost 50 years at this point, and this company is known for making trusted products that are well-researched, backed by science, and made from pure ingredients. Their odorless fish oil supplement is no different.

              Nature’s Bounty product is marketed as a dietary supplement so you can expect a higher amount of EPA, DHA, and Omega-3 in them than usual. Even so, it’s recommended to take two softgels two times a day. These supplements are non-GMO and gluten-free, too.

              Purchase Nature’s Bounty’s Fish Oil here.

              Bottom Line

              While training your brain via certain brain activities and eating plenty of healthy fatty foods will help, we understand that not everyone can meet their Omega-3 requirements. Some people may also have medical conditions that force them to take extra steps in maintaining a healthy brain. This is where supplements shine as they offer plenty of high dosages for the nutrients that your body needs and provide several other benefits as well.

              If you decide to choose any of the listed fish oil supplements, I assure you that you will get a good quality product to help boost your brainpower.

              More Articles About the Benefits of Fish Oil

              Featured photo credit: Anshu A via unsplash.com

              Reference

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