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Unhealthy Thinking Patterns

One of the big messages we try to get across on Design.org is this: your thoughts can change your life. Thoughts are extremely powerful. They affect our emotions, our habits, our relationships, our sense of self-worth, and virtually every aspect of our lives. Our thoughts can work for us, but they can also work against us. And when you allow unhealthy thinking patterns to develop, they are definitely going to work against you. 

What are unhealthy thinking patterns?

Unhealthy thinking patterns are thoughts that you have regularly that do not serve you for some reason. They may hold you back personally, financially, in your career, in your relationships, or in any other number of ways

Many people have a hard time identifying unhealthy thinking patterns because they are so used to thinking that way. It doesn’t feel like a thought—it feels like the truth. It doesn’t seem like something you could change even if you wanted to. 

At the same time, however, most people recognize that they do have certain thoughts that don’t serve the greater purpose they want to achieve in their life. 

How do unhealthy thinking patterns develop?

If these thinking patterns are so harmful, how do they come to be? 

The answer is going to be different for everyone and for different unhealthy thinking patterns, but there are some common culprits.

  • Past experiences. We can form negative thinking patterns because of negative experiences we’ve had in the past (even in the distant past, such as childhood).
  • Ignoring evidence. Our brains tend to focus more on negative things than positive things (see: negativity bias). That means that when we’re interpreting our experiences, we may find it easier to form negative thoughts or come to negative conclusions. This sets the stage perfectly for unhealthy thinking patterns to develop.
  • Repetition. When we think the same negative thoughts over time, it becomes a pattern. Our brains (which are constantly trying to conserve energy) tend to choose the path of least resistance when it comes to thoughts. If you think a thought today, you are more likely to think the same thought tomorrow.

It’s easy to develop unhealthy thinking patterns, so you shouldn’t beat yourself up for yours. Rather, work on overcoming them.

What are some examples of unhealthy thinking patterns?

This post marks the beginning of a series on unhealthy thinking patterns. The examples below are the patterns that we’ll discuss in greater detail over the coming days:

  • Negative focus
  • Overgeneralization
  • Personalizing
  • All or nothing
  • “Should” statements

This is not an all-inclusive list, but it does represent the most common thinking patterns that I see affecting today’s creatives. 

By digging deeper into each of these topics, we can explore why each is a problem for the creative mind, and what you can do to overcome patterns like these.

How can I break free from unhealthy thinking patterns?

Breaking free from unhealthy thinking patterns will look different depending on what the pattern is and how long is has been a problem for you. We will go over ways to overcome each unhealthy thinking pattern in its specific post, but let me give you a quick glimpse into some of the more general ideas. 

  • Identify the pattern. Again, it can be hard to know when you’re stuck in a negative thinking pattern. However, if you’re going to break free from it, you’re going to have to recognize and identify it. 
  • Recognize your triggers. Negative thought patterns rise to the surface when we are “triggered” in certain ways. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid those triggers so that you can avoid the negative thoughts.
  • Stop the cycle. Catch the thoughts when you think them. You’ll be surprised how often your practiced thoughts creep back into your head.
  • Choose new thoughts. Once you catch the negative thought, you can replace it with a positive one. You have control over your thoughts, and can always choose what to think.
  • Establish new patterns. With repetition and practice, you can establish positive thinking patterns that help you instead of hurt you. 
  • Give yourself time. It took time to develop your negative thinking patterns; give yourself time to break them and establish new patterns. Be patient with yourself; the work of self-improvement is worth it.

Over the coming days, we’ll discuss how the common unhealthy thinking patterns listed above affect your body, mind, and spirit. Thinking this way holds you back from “creating happy” in your life. That’s not what I want for you, and I know it’s not what you want for yourself.

Commit now to understanding and identifying these thought patterns within yourself so that you can work through them and create a happier life and more positive reality for yourself. 

Let’s get started.

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