In Tuesday’s breakdown of mental health terms, I wrote about mental filters, what they look like and how they appear in our lives. Mental filters can go my many names, but what’s important to know is that they can impact the way we view the world. When mental filters go unchallenged for too long, they can change the way we think, the way we perceive what’s going on around us. Filtered thinking can become instinctual without us realizing and have a severe impact on our thought patterns. Today, I want to look at five things you can do when dealing with mental filters and filtered thinking.
Notice your mental filters
One of the reasons mental filters can grow into harmful thought patterns is because they go unchecked. My filtering went unchecked and unchallenged for years, to the point where I just thought that’s who I was. Mental filters have a way of clouding your brain, and making you think that’s just how your thought process is. Even if you can’t stop yourself from filtering, noticing when it’s happening is a big first step.
Replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts (easier said than done)
When you’re able, try to replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. They could be positive thoughts about your situation or yourself in general; any positive thoughts are going to help. For a long time, I was under the impression that positive thoughts were thoughts that improved my mood or made me happy. With time, I’ve learned that while that’s sometimes the case, it’s not the only purpose of positive thinking. In this case, positive thoughts are directly challenging the negative ones, trying to find a healthy balance where your brain can rest. Even if it’s only occasionally, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is worth trying.
Recognize your thought patterns
I’ll be honest – I don’t always know why I have the thoughts I do. Some things just pop in my head, never to be thought again. Other times, it’s like a thought can’t get out of my head for hours. Even though I don’t understand every thought or why it’s there, there are patterns. Over time, I’ve learned to recognize these patterns – what they look like, and what triggers them. I can’t always stop these patterns from occurring and I won’t recognize them every time. But the effort I put in to recognize these patterns, and try to combat them when they occur, will grow stronger over time.
Call it out for what it is
The terms mental filters, filtered thinking, or filtered thoughts aren’t as widely known as other psychological terms, and that’s something that needs to change. When we can name something for what it is – or name what we’re doing, what’s going on in our brain – we can lessen the damage or confusion around it. The times I’ve been able to recognize my filtering and call it out for what it is, I feel better. I feel more equipped to handle these thoughts and even though they might still make me anxious, the impact is lessened.
Separate the good from the bad
This might be the most obvious thing in the world, but not all of our thoughts are bad. In fact, for some of us the majority of our thoughts aren’t bad. But there is a fixation we can have on negative thoughts, where it feels like we have much more of them than actually exist. By separating the positive thoughts from the negative ones, we can compare and contrast how big of a challenge we’re up against. One negative thought has the power and ability to outweigh several positive ones, especially when we fixate on it. By actively trying to separate these thoughts, we can prove that more often than not, positive thoughts are buzzing around in our brain – it’s just harder to locate them.
What are your thoughts on mental filters, or filtered thinking? Have you heard of this term? How do you try to deal with filtered thinking? Let me know in the comments!