1. Telling you that you have more impulse control than you really do.
Our brains have a bad habit of tricking us into thinking that if we’ve had some success (let’s say with a diet, for example), then it’s a foregone conclusion that we’ll have more success. Psychologists call this brain foible “restraint bias,” and it’s especially pernicious because it tends to hit us when we feel like we’re on top of our game. Notice how many successful diets turn into complete catastrophes, with more weight gained than lost.
What to do: When you’re doing well, enjoy the success, but always beware the backslide.
2. Producing more automatic thoughts than you can possibly manage.
All of our brains are perpetually busy producing what some cognitivescientists have dubbed “automatic thoughts.” And since every thought is a physical event – an electrical signal coursing through your brain – they have physical consequences; namely, that you are momentarily captivated by whatever the thought is about, no matter how trivial. It takes discipline to block out this chorus of chaos and focus on what matters.
What to do: Remind yourself that automatic thoughts are just that: automatic. You can’t control them, but you can control what to focus on.
3. Pulling you into rumination about your worst fears.
Rumination, or mind-wandering, isn’t necessarily bad, but our brains have a habit of pulling us into these waters and then stocking them with sharks. Notice that it doesn’t take long to find yourself in internal panic mode about a job situation, or financial situation, or relationship pitfall.
What to do: When you find yourself ruminating on the negative, ask yourself if you’re doing so to formulate a constructive solution. If the answer is no, then shift focus and get out of there.
4. Directing you toward distractions to take the pressure off.
We’re all under pressure about a multitude of things, and sometimes we need a good diversion to keep the situation from getting overheated. But our brains, if we let them, would send us chasing after one after another distractions to keep the pressure alarms from ever going off. That’s what our threat-sensitive brains have, in part, evolved to do – avoid threats. And what better way than to find entirely nonthreatening distractions?
What to do: Don’t fear distractions, because sometimes we need them, but if you find yourself chronically distracted, check yourself before you get lost in neverland.
5. Making you think you’re a mind-reader and a fortune-teller
Our brains are prone to several thinking errors, and two of them do ......
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