Challenging Unhelpful & Unhealthy Thoughts


Our thoughts are incredibly powerful and can strongly affect how we feel and behave. Sometimes, it can seem that thoughts are automatic, out of control, and based in reality. However, these assumptions aren’t always correct. Sometimes, we fall into unhelpful and irrational patterns of thinking (Please see our September 1, 2015 blog post for a more in-depth discussion about these unhelpful thinking styles). Recognizing damaging thought patterns is the first step towards helpful and healthy thinking. And changing our thoughts to more neutral and helpful patterns is the second step. Here are 5 questions to ask yourself when you notice you’re falling into an unhelpful thinking pattern:


  1. Where is the evidence that this thought is true? Where is the evidence that this thought is untrue? Asking yourself these two questions allows you to put the thought in perspective and realize whether what you’re thinking is a fact or just a thought. Are you falling into an unhelpful thinking trap?
  2. What would I tell a friend if he/she were having the same thought? This question helps to gain some space from your thought and to assess whether the thought is rational. When we see a friend falling into an unhelpful thinking pattern, we often automatically challenge them on it. Yet, this can be difficult to do for ourselves. This questions allows us to do for ourselves what we can often do for our loved ones.
  3. Am I 100% sure this will happen? Sometimes we like to engage in “fortune-telling” where we make unhelpful predictions about the future and interpret these as fact. The reality is that we can never know exactly what the future holds. This question can help you to challenge that assumption.
  4. How is this thought helping me right now? What would be a more helpful thought? This question helps you to recognize the purpose behind the thought. Is this thought keeping me safe? Is it helping or hindering me?
  5. Will this matter a year from now? Often, people worry over something that may not matter at all in the long-term. This question can help put things in perspective.

Thinking is incredibly powerful and can strongly affect our mood and perspective. To learn more about how to recognize unhelpful thinking patterns and how to challenge negative thoughts, consider booking an appointment with one of our counsellors at Okanagan Clinical Counselling Services.

OCCS is comprehensive counselling providing counselling services all throughout the Okanagan with locations in downtown Kelowna, Westbank and Penticton.  Our counsellors specialize in a wide range of concerns such as depression, anxiety, couples counselling, addictions and more.  Call now to find out how our therapy services or online counselling services may benefit you and begin recognizing and challenging your unhelpful thinking patterns.


This blog post was written by our Clinical Counsellor:


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