Thank you for joining Stay-in-Bed Mom Blog (SIBMB) for an ongoing positive self-talk series. Self-love starts with positive self-talk. We’ll continue to discuss cognitive distortions, or unhelpful thinking styles, through the lens of parenthood. Last time we discussed overgeneralization. A little cognitive distortion here, a little exaggeration there isn’t going to affect your mental state in the short term. However, if your negative thinking becomes chronic, then your mental health will undoubtedly suffer.
Pessimism takes a toll on mental and physical health. Researchers conducted a meta-analysis of data from 230,000 men and women in the U.S., Europe, Israel, and Australia over fourteen years. And the subjects who characterized themselves as optimistic experienced 35% fewer major heart complications, e.g. stroke, heart attack and cardiac death, than those who didn’t. Furthermore, these optimists were 14% less likely to have a premature death by any cause, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia and diabetes.
What’s mental filter, mental filtering, or filter? You see only the negative in a person or situation. “Coffee cup half empty” parents take all the negative details, magnify them, and – to make matters worse – fixate on these particulars. In the current coronavirus climate, it’s hard not to mental filter.
What’s an example of mental filter? “My almost 4-year-old son can’t write his name legibly. Eek! He’s behind in reaching his milestones.” Actually, he’s ahead in some areas and striving in others.
What does mental filter look like in your mom or dad life? You dwell on your child’s areas of weakness, while ignoring his or her areas of strength. Sure, maybe your son’s fine motor skills aren’t stellar, but his math skills are phenomenal. Similarly, you focus on the negative not the positive about your parenting.
How can mental filter be harmful? A person sees only the negative while filtering out the positive. Your vision of reality can become clouded, darkened and distorted!
Having this type of cognitive distortion may lead to higher levels of anxiety and depression. In particular, people diagnosed with panic disorder may use mental filter to sift out the positivity in their life, focusing on their feelings of loneliness and avoidance behaviors rather than the ways they have learned to cope with their disorder. Consequently, anxiety levels rise, as positivity is filtered out, while self-defeating thoughts increase – thus perpetuating a vicious cycle.
Mental filter clouds your view of life.
It clouds your view of others.
It clouds your view of yourself.
It may lead to pessimism.
Am I filtering in my daily life? You may be if… you catch yourself using absolute words or phrases like…
- I hate everything about being stuck at home due to the coronavirus outbreaks.
- I hate everything about my family.
- I hate everything about my stay-at-home mom (fill in the blank) life.
- I hate everything about my job.
- I hate everything about myself.
- There is nothing good in my life.
What can I do to overcome mental filter?
Do…use the 3 Cs!
- Classify the negative, self defeating thought. Identify the unwanted thought or thinking pattern (e.g. all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filter, etc.). Write it in a thought journal.
- Challenge the thought. Look at what you wrote down. Review your thought journal and look for signs of a negative mental filter. Reframe the undesired thought. Ask yourself how someone else would view your thought. Is this really true?
- Change the thought. Replace your thought with a positive or an optimistically realistic one. Believe you can create a different outcome in the future. A single negative event doesn’t hold true forever.
Remember the 3 Cs of cognitive restructuring, and you will notice a shift in the way you see the world. Through practice, you will think in a healthier and more positive way and see things more clearly. Everyone needs a daily dose of vitamin C and the 3 Cs – Classify –> Challenge –> Change. Both will do a body and mind good!
- “Mental Filters and Panic Disorder” – Verywell Mind
- “Cognitive Restructuring and Social Anxiety” – Verywell Mind
- “Challenging Our Cognitive Distortions and Creating Positive Outlooks” – PsychCentral
A Final Thought – From the Pillow
I’m not good enough. Scratch that thought! I AM mom (or dad) enough.
What strategies have worked for you for overcoming mental filter?