#19 Ways to make yourself miserable
Happy Monday killers – welcome to the week, it’s grind time LETS GOOOOOOO
(so, caffeine just kicked the fuck IN)
Firstly, this is a banger of an email. If there was ever an email I have written that gives you practical advice on how to change your behaviour for the better, this is it. I write these in the hope that they may help someone, even if it’s just to pass on a L.O.L. If you read this and think of anyone in your friend/family circle that could use such advice, please forward this email to them & ask them to subscribe.
It would mean the world to me.
I have spent the week recovering from that bloody wisdom tooth
(the miserable fucker)
Nothing like an aching mouth to make you reconsider if you really ever need to eat anything but low sugar Jelly again.
(JK JK, food is life)
Sore mouth aside, it’s been a great week for study. I am currently studying an advanced certificate in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, a.k.a interesting shit 101.
Not for any other reason other than to further my knowledge around human behaviour & behaviour change strategies.
(and because it’s interesting asf)
No real benefit to my academic life, no big add to my resume – purely for the benefit of my knowledge base & to help my clients personal & professional development.
CBT is a form of psychotherapy, looking at the structure & process of one’s thought patterns.
Essentially, CBT uses small, practical self-help strategies that are designed to help improve your quality of life, quickly.
The small practices you put into place have a compounding effect over time – meaning the more you implement them, the more reward you reap from them.
Turns out, I’ve discussed CBT strategies before in these emails – without even realising it
(sneaky sneaky hehe)
One of the most common negative thought patterns I see is called ‘Cognitive Distortion’.
Basically, cognitive distortion is our mind trying to convince us of something that isn’t really true, in aid of reinforcing our negative thinking or emotions.
We create these rational & accurate sounding narratives all the time, bullshitting ourselves into not feeling bad about our shitty actions or decisions.
“I have had a long day already, I deserve a break from the gym”
“Urgh, I have been working my ass off and seeing no results. ‘Fitness’ just doesn’t work for me”
“I don’t have time to meal prep, therefore, I can’t diet.”
These thought patterns are born from our Ego. It’s a need to justify our shitty choices to ourselves.
We all do it.
To a certain extent, it’s our ego coming in to play to protect us, from ourselves. To make us feel better about our behaviour.
So, the question is left – can we change these patterns & think our way into doing the things we know we should do?
Strap yaself in, Micko has ya covered 😉
(this is what CBT is)
Secondly, CBT isn’t a magical solution. You don’t ‘do CBT’ once and expect all your problems to melt away. CBT is a learnt skill, meaning that you will get better at it the more you practice & your efforts will compound over time.
(Much like diet & exercise whhhhhhaaaatttttttt)
Thirdly, you need to listen to yourself & question what you hear.
For example, I had the opportunity to put this all into practice on Thursday morning.
Let me set the scene.
In bed at 9, alarm set for 4am (most days, ya boi be getting it)
Woke up at 2:30am, tooth on fire.
Had my last painkillers & got an ice pack.
Painkillers sedated the shit out of me, slept through alarms.
Woke up in a panic, groggy as shit.
Running out the house 5min behind schedule.
Get into car, car wont start,
Call uber to get to work.
Get to work, realise forgot all paper work & lunch at home.
(hahahahaha fkn ignite me)
Initial thought = ‘Today is fucked, the whole day is going to be a fkn shitshow.’
Take a second, breathe,
Question = ‘Is today really all over? Or is it just a bit of a hectic start that you can turn around?’ (Is this merely a cognitive distortion I have placed on my own mind?)
Answer = ‘Ok, the morning has been hectic, but that’s just the morning. Today isn’t fucked, it’s just a crazy start to overcome. Stop overgeneralising the situation & get on with making a better day.’
Previous times I am sure I would have let the initial 2 hours of madness dictate the rest of my Thursday, convincing myself the whole day is ruined.
By questioning my own thought pattern, I was able to identify my own cognitive distortion & redirect my energy into having a more productive day, in spite of a stressful morning.
There are many, many types of cognitive distortions that have been researched over the years – but for the purpose of keeping it short(ish), I’ll touch on 9.
Engaging in these thought patterns is a guaranteed way to make yourself miserable, or at least, not happy.
9 ways to make yourself miserable
- Think in a ‘All or nothing/black or white’ approach.
This is thinking in terms of extremes, or an inability to see the world in any shades of grey. You’re either perfect, or you’re a total failure. You forget one thing at the grocery shop, and suddenly the whole trip was a waste of time.
- Overgeneralise every situation
Take one data point & generalise it as the overall
This sneaky thought pattern takes one data point and generalizes it to as an overall theme. You receive a C on one test and conclude that you are stupid and a failure. Overgeneralization can lead to overly negative thoughts about yourself and your environment based on only one or two data points, not the whole picture.
- Mental Filter
The mental filter distortion focuses on a single negative data point and excludes all the positive ones. An example of this distortion is one partner in a relationship dwelling on a single (perhaps not intentional) negative comment and viewing the entire relationship negative, while ignoring the years of positive comments and experiences.
A Mental Filter Distortion is often seen as being pessimistic.
- Jumping to conclusions
Jumping to conclusions (a.k.a mind reading), is convincing ourselves that we know what someone else is thinking, when we actually have no idea. I.E. Seeing a stranger with an unpleasant expression on their face & assuming they are expressing negative emotions toward you.
- Minimizing or magnifying
Also known as the “Binocular Trick” for its stealthy skewing of your perspective, this distortion involves exaggerating or minimising the meaning, importance, or likelihood of things.
Basically, talking yourself into thinking something is a bigger or smaller deal than it is. If you have ever lied to someone over a very small detail & freaked out thinking they will find out, you know what this is like.
- Emotional reasoning
YOU ARE NOT YOUR EMOTIONS.
You, (as a living, breathing & capable person) are very separate from your feelings.
This is one of the most common distortions, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t succumbed to this distortion. Emotional reasoning is accepting your emotions as a fact & allowing them to dictate your behaviours. I.E. I feel angry, therefore, I am angry. When in reality, you can feel angry without being angry or behaving angry.
Just because we feel something doesn’t mean it is true; for example, we may become jealous and think our partner has feelings for someone else, but that doesn’t make it true.
Another particularly damaging distortion is the tendency to make “should” statements. Should statements be statements that you make to yourself about what you “should” do, what you “ought” to do, or what you “must” do. They can also be applied to others, imposing a set of expectations that will likely not be met.
When we hang on too tightly to our “should” statements about ourselves, the result is often guilt that we cannot live up to them. When we cling to our “should” statements about others, we are generally disappointed by their failure to meet our expectations, leading to anger and resentment.
This distortion comes down to self-talk and self-labelling. What you tell yourself, about yourself, becomes your reality.
A personal example, I did not excel during my schooling years – constantly being distracted and struggling to focus (shocker). Due to this, I received poor grades and thus began self-labelling as ‘low intelligence’. This continued for years and, over time, I fell in to believing myself as ‘dumb’. The reality is I just didn’t find that particular subject matter enjoyable to study, and didn’t know how to study. I am not dumb, I never have been, but I continued to tell myself that I was – and what you tell yourself, you believe.
Mislabelling refers to the application of highly emotional, loaded, and inaccurate or unreasonable language when labelling.
As the name implies, this distortion involves taking everything personally or assigning blame to yourself without any logical reason to believe you are to blame.
This distortion covers a wide range of situations, from assuming you are the reason a relationship failed (when maybe he/she was just a really shit partner, or you weren’t compatible to start with), to the more severe examples of believing that you are the cause for every instance of moodiness or irritation in those around you.
Cognitive distortions can be the cause of your absolute misery.
However, in that same way – they can be the cause of your absolute happiness & success.
This is where ‘I’m the luckiest
guy in the world’ comes into play. It’s the opposite of cognitive distortion,
it’s cognitive enhancement.