May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Mental health is inclusive of our emotional, psychological and social well-being.  It affects how we think, feel and act and impacts all aspects of our lives.  One factor to help improve and maintain a healthy mental state is through an improved inner dialog.

What is inner dialog? 

Inner dialogue, or self-talk, is the running commentary that goes on in our minds that combines both conscious thoughts and unconscious beliefs.  It helps us interpret and process our everyday experiences.  Sometimes it’s upbeat and supportive and at other times it can be fearful, negative and critical.

When we start to experience negative thinking, it’s often due to thought patterns that are causing us to view reality in an inaccurate way. This is also known as cognitive distortions.  Below are a few common cognitive distortions.

  • Catastrophizing: Seeing only the worst possible outcomes of a situation
  • Mind Reading: Interpreting the thoughts and beliefs of others without adequate evidence
  • Disqualifying the Positive: Recognizing only the negative aspects of a situation while ignoring the positive.
  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: Thinking in absolutes such as “always”, “never”, or “every”. “I never do a good enough job on anything.”

When we can start to identify our thoughts as possible cognitive distortions, we then have the power to challenge, disregard and replace them with an alternative perspective.  With the change in perspective comes a change in the way we feel and react.  Don’t take all those thoughts that pop into your head as absolute truths, rather, challenge what isn’t helpful and reframe those thoughts into new possibilities.

Kari Gregory is a Licensed Professional Counselor certified in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  She specializes in the treatment of Anxiety, OCD and related disorders. You can learn more about Kari here.