We all have heard the expression, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” This expression refers to adaptability. We can learn how to re-interpret uncomfortable, unpleasant experiences into opportunities for growth (healthy cognitions). Or if we assign overly negative meanings to the experiences (cognitive distortions), we might grow only weeds of worry, insecurity, and sadness.
So what does your garden grow? Some of us may be growing cognitive distortions and may not have identified them as such. Or we may realize it but have no idea how to stop them from taking over. With practice and hard work, it is certainly possible to minimize the weeds by changing the way we think.
Consider specific thoughts that you may have on a regular basis. How many are truly rational thoughts? If one “what if” worry or "I'm a bad person" judgment turns in to another, imagine how many irrational thoughts could flood your brain in the span of one hour, a day, a year. Those cognitive distortions are like weeds taking over your garden so that nothing else can be sustained.
But you can choose to think more rational or logical thoughts. These thoughts remove the weeds of cognitive distortions and allow the fruits and vegetables (healthy thoughts) to flourish and grow. It will take a lot of practice and commitment to make lasting change. Just ask yourself: Is it the thought as accurate as can be (no evidence to the contrary)? And is it helpful? If the answe
r is no, keep revising the thought until it is.
For example, if I yell at my kids, I might think, "I'm a bad mother." But that's not accurate because there is evidence to the contrary, and it certainly isn't helpful. A more rational and helpful thought might be, "Yelling wasn't the best choice, but I'm human. Let me sit down and plan a better way to address my child's behavior and my frustration."
With fewer cognitive distortions in our lives, we can thrive, not just survive, difficult experiences. We can adapt and grow through our own mistakes, through hurtful words or actions of others, and through life's curveballs. So ask yourself: what does you garden grow (and tend it carefully).