Don’t Let These 5 Unproductive Thought Patterns Hijack Your Brain

Thoughts are powerful. They are so powerful, in fact, the famous mathematician and scientific thinker, Rene Descartes, said, “I think therefore I am.” But not all thoughts use their powers for good. Some thought patterns are extremely negative and can devastate your mental health and wellness.

As strong and powerful as your thoughts are, you are not powerless. On the contrary, you have more control over your thoughts than you think. The first step to successfully managing the thoughts that enter your mind is identifying the particularly negative patterns. Once the negative thought patterns have been identified and removed, you can start replacing them with positive thinking.

Top 5 Unproductive Thought Patterns That Block Your Cognitive Highway & How to Overcome Them

Photo by Jonathan Andrew on

1.) All-or-Nothing Thinking

Many people struggle with all-or-nothing thinking. This is when you perceive a situation or circumstance in absolutes with no room for a middle ground. For example, “If I don’t accomplish my goals today, I’m a complete loser.”

All-or-nothing thinking also looks like having to go all-in on something in order for it to succeed. For instance, you want to tell the world how chiropractic care has helped you live a healthier life, but instead of starting a blog, creating social media accounts, or even starting a podcast, all-or-nothing thinking manifests as you believing you must become a chiropractor before sharing your story.

The best way to get past all-or-nothing thinking is to realize there is a middle ground. Your situations and circumstances are more nuanced than you believe. You don’t have to go to extremes to see things through. Find a middle ground, commit to the task, and give it your best.

2.) Overgeneralizing

Much like all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralizing takes things to extremes. The difference between the two thought patterns is all-or-nothing thinking pertains to one specific situation while overgeneralizing turns into a re-occurring pattern. For example, “I screwed up my last relationship, so I am going to screw up the next one.”

The thing about overgeneralizing is it is completely untrue. Whenever this type of thinking surfaces your best bet is to stop and think about the facts. Maybe you did mess up your last relationship, but because of that, you’re working on the areas you’re weak in so you can cultivate better, long-lasting relationships.

The truth is what happened in the past does not have any bearing on what will happen in the future. What we tell ourselves is often unhelpful and untrue, so we need to flip the script.

3.) Disqualifying the Positive

Disqualifying the positive is a common negative thought pattern, especially among those with self-confidence issues. How can you tell if you struggle with disqualifying the positive? One of the primary indicators is you have trouble accepting compliments. For example, someone acknowledges how nice you look and you brush it off.

Building self-confidence takes time, but it is key to overcoming disqualifying the positive. One way to start building your self-confidence is to keep track of your ‘wins’ each week. Your wins don’t have to be times where you accomplished something. They can be moments you persevered or stepped out of your comfort zone. As you continue to keep track over your wins, overtime you will begin to notice your strengths and capabilities and learn to build off of them.

4.) Emotional Reasoning

Emotional reasoning occurs when you feel a certain way and think it must be true. For example, “I feel like I am lost in life; therefore, I’m lost in life.” Newsflash, emotions aren’t always accurate representations of reality.

Here’s how you defeat emotional reasoning: Set a timer for 30 seconds to one minute. Whether you’re feeling angry, sad, guilty, or anxious, allow yourself to feel your emotions. Then, when the timer goes off, move on.

5.) Should Statements

Should statements center around the expectations we place on ourselves. For example, “I should be past this by now,” or “I should have gotten the job.” Should statements come down to competence because competence boils down to self-efficiency.

Managing should statements is all about learning to give yourself grace. Think about where the expectations you place on yourself come from. Contemplate on the rules and standards you live by and consider who made them. Stop focusing on what you should have done and start focusing on what you can do. Be intentional.

In the End…

Unproductive thought patterns are bound to rear their ugly heads. It is impossible to get rid of them for good. However, that doesn’t mean you have to allow them to overtake your brain space. With the right methods, you can squash them on the surface. With time and practice, they will show up less and and positivity will flourish.


Well + Good

Emily Laurence

May 12, 2021

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s