Photo by Hal Gatewood 

There’s something about holidays and the freedom it gives to clear out the clutter in your mind and just sit down, or lie down in my case, with a beer in hand (or your favourite beverage), and chew the fat with one of your besties.

Holidays give you this freedom, and magic can happen in that space between your ears. You know that place that gets very little room to flex during non holiday times because it’s forever in fight or flight mode.

Murray and I were talking. He’s a nurse. He works in the mental health realm, and even when he is talking crap (which is often  – that’s the best part about a bestie), he’s worth listening to. Everyone needs a Murray, or two. I’m sure you’ve got one.

Anyway, where am I going with this? As always, when Murray and I begin to talk over the BBQ and that already mentioned beverage, the crap and the truth has an interesting way of intermingling and as a result a sense of clarity is achieved. It really is amazing what just talking crap can achieve!

This one sunny night on holiday Murray was talking about rubbish as usual, but I kept my ear to the ground just in case there was something of use and value.

Suddenly, responding to one of my pieces of rubbish, he exclaimed; “mmmmm sounds very much as though you’re using one or two (or maybe more) of the ten cognitive distortions there Steve”.

The what?

As I’ve said a few times before, I’m getting more and more weary about these life coach-like number lists that are meant to solve the world in three easy steps.

Before I could stop him, Murray started talking about them.

He had a point. I’d just begun a good natured waffle about the state of the government and the opposition parties and the way they all  ALWAYS stuff things up in the name of some sort of ideology.

“That’s classic overgeneralization there bro!”, he said. “It’s number 2 on the list”.

He was right, and so he helped me unpack what the other 9 were all about.

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
  2. Overgeneralization
  3. Mental Filters
  4. Discounting the Positive
  5. Jumping to Conclusions (including mind reading and fortune telling)
  6. Magnification
  7. Emotional Reasoning
  8. “Should” Statements
  9. Labeling
  10. Personalization and Blame

It really is worth clicking on this link and finding out a bit more about these distortions that we all use every day. These thinking distortions are not particularly useful in your thinking, but I imagine, if you are anything like me, they all play a key role. Wouldn’t things be easier if they didn’t?

As the link describes; “Cognitive distortions can contribute to poor decision making, but they can also play a significant role in the onset and maintenance of mental illness and other issues. Such distortions are associated with the following”:

Heading into the new school year, having an understanding of these particular cognitive distortions could be very useful to share with your staff. Maybe the start of the year is an excellent time to begin the process of helping people identify for themselves, those times that negatively colour their thinking. 

Start by taking time to challenge your own thinking, it’ll certainly help you minimise the negative impact of the daily grind that you often put yourself through.

If you have a particularly fun atmosphere/culture in your staff room, maybe you could even play Cognitive Distortion Bingo at your next staff meeting! Now that could be entertaining.

All the best for the start to the new year everyone. You’ve got this!