Cognitive Restructuring: Challenging Our Thinking


Do you ever think about your thinking? Ever assess your own cognitive function? Or ever ask yourself why you believe what you believe and challenge those beliefs?  Well, you should. 

I’m not saying what you believe may be wrong or untrue. But because beliefs are so incredibly powerful and essentially run our lives, and we should evaluate them often. If we realize that our beliefs are negative and harming our health, then we need to change them! One method for doing this is called cognitive restructuring. 

Cognitive restructuring is a technique for reframing the way we think by analyzing negative thoughts and asking questions that lead to new conclusions. It is rooted in the Socratic Method: pointed questioning intended to challenge ideas with logical thinking. The process involves becoming aware of negative thinking, challenging those thoughts by modifying the rationale given them, and employing better logic. 

With cognitive restructuring, we can change our unhelpful thinking with logic. So we can view our situations and ourselves in a more reasonable light. And we can replace harmful thoughts and emotions with better ones.

Cognitive Restructuring Example

Think about a scenario in your life that is giving you a great deal of stress.  It could be a job, a coworker, or a family member. Or it could be something in the news. And then analyze your thoughts with respect to that scenario. Ask yourself these questions: 

Are these feelings or facts?

Or are these thoughts just be assumptions?

Could my thinking be an exaggeration of the truth?

Or is there an alternative explanation?

What evidence do I have to verify my opinion?

Am I looking at all the evidence?

What are the best-case and worst-case outcomes? And, how likely are they?

Is my thought a likely scenario or a worst-case outcome?

Oftentimes, you will find that through this line of questioning, the situation is not as bad as you make it out to be. Therefore, you can lessen your emotional response to the situation simply by reframing the way you think about it. 

But first you need to be mindful of your thoughts and beliefs before you can challenge them and change them. And cognitive restructuring is a powerful way of doing just that.

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