Critical thinking stimulates us to improve the quality of our thinking by analysing, assessing, and reconstructing it. As we analyse our thinking, we identify its purpose, question, information, conclusion, assumptions, implications, main concepts and points of view. Furthermore, to analyse our thinking, helps us to assess it for clarity, accuracy, precision, relevance, depth, breadth, significance, logic. Here, how to use critical thinking to improve your personal life, projects ideas that help us to defuse negative thoughts. This entails looking for errors in our thinking, stacking the evidence for and against the thought. Also, it includes identifying a more accurate way of seeing a situation and reconstructing the attendant thought, and noting the effects or implications of the new thought on our feelings and behaviour.
Identifying Problematic Thoughts
Besides, thoughts can have a profound effect on our moods and behaviour. Our thoughts have a say in the answer to the question whether to retaliate or forgive, persevere or give up, engage or withdraw. Though our negative automatic thoughts can cause or prolong our distress, we can harness them to heal ourselves. Engaging the process of critical thinking helps us to achieve that. Moreover, certain clues point us to problematic thoughts; sudden jolt of anxiety, despair or resentment. Being stuck in an irritable emotional state, and carrying a sense of dread for a lot of the day, also feature. Another pointer is struggling to follow through with your goals or plans. Contrary to, constructive thoughts propel us to positive action.
Further with, comparing our negative thoughts to reality helps us to defuse them. This process underlies how to use critical thinking to improve your personal life. As you do so, you transcend negative thoughts.
1. Record Your Negative Thoughts And Their Effects
Our thoughts may be about the past, present or future. “I sounded like a fool.” “I’m going to fail this test.” “I’m going to be depleted from all the stress.” Identifying our thoughts may require us finding a quiet place, to think for a moment or visualise what just happened. Else, our thoughts can come as impressions or images; imagining yourself staring blankly at your audience, entertaining a vague sense of inadequacy.
Aside from, if the feelings attendant to a thought appear excessive, we need to dig deeper to the actual automatic negative thought. For instance, discovering that your shirt now looks small on you, may trigger feelings of shame. Clearly, there is a mismatch between the thought, “my shirt appears too small,” and the feelings of shame. Most likely, there is a more upsetting thought that is triggering the feelings. When we dig deeper, we light on the actual negative thought. “I’ve been eating too much, and I have no discipline. I’ll never achieve my goals.”
Here, we are going to examine for fallacies and errors the thought, “I’m so inconsiderate,” arising from your forgetting your wife’s birthday. This thought starts you feeling sad, guilty, and avoiding your wife.
2. Look For Evidence That Supports Your Thought
We need to be as objective as possible, as we examine real reasons or evidence to believe the negative thought. In this direction, here are the evidences for the thought. “I forgot to wish my wife a happy birthday on a special day.” A few years ago, I also forgot to send an anniversary card to my wife.” I don’t always remember my friend’s birthdays.”
3. Highlight Evidence That Does Not Support Your Thought
Counting the number of positive and negative evidences, gives us an objective measure. Evidences against the negative thought under consideration, arise. “I’ve always remembered my wife’s birthday.” “I do nice things for her on her birthdays. Also, I help her to do stuff like ironing her clothes.” “I had a stressful day at the office. The issue lingered, and the stress from it hijacked my attention.” I planned to wish her a happy birthday as soon as I woke up, not when I was able to.” “I’m considerate now of possibly having hurt my wife’s feelings.”
4. Identify Possible Errors To Your Thinking
Comparing your original thought with the evidence you have gathered, helps you to spy out possible errors in your thinking. In view of the evidence gathered, you can easily highlight the thinking error of overgeneralisation. You concluded that your one mistake defined you as a person. Your forgetting your wife’s birthday is not enough to label you inconsiderate.
Other thinking errors to take note of are black-and-white thinking, seeing things in extreme terms; shoulding, thinking the way we want things to be is the way they ought to be; catastrophizing, thinking a situation is much worse than it is. Discounting the positive, minimising evidence that contradicts our negative automatic thoughts. Emotional reasoning, assuming our feelings convey useful information. Fortune telling, making predictions based on scant information. Mind reading, assuming we know what someone else is thinking. Personalisation, thinking events that have nothing to do with us are actually about us. Entitlement, expecting to reach a certain outcome based on our actions or position. Outsourcing happiness, giving outside factors the final say regarding our emotions. False sense of helplessness, believing we have less power than we actually do. False sense of responsibility, believing we have more power than we actually do.
5. Modify Your Initial Thought To Make It More Consistent With Reality
This step helps you to come up with a thought supported by facts, not a generic self-affirmation or a simple rebuttal of the negative thought. Also, it implies that you have identified a more accurate and helpful way of seeing the situation. An alternative, better way of thinking arises from simply following facts. Hereabouts is the alternative new thought. “I did intend to wish my wife a happy birthday, but stress hijacked my attention. In the future, I can set a reminder to make it harder to forget. The main point is that it is not the end of the world. My wife attested to this fact with her great understanding when I finally faced her.”
6. Note The Effects Of The New Thought On Your Feelings
Indulging in new ways of thinking, often starts us experiencing changes in our feelings and behaviour. Being honest with yourself, take note of any effect of the new thought, you are aware of. If you did not notice any improvement in your feelings and behaviour, you may have to reconstruct the thought. However, in this situation, you likely felt the positive effects of the new thought. You kicked guilt and sadness, reconnected with your wife, and felt good remembering the nice things you do for your wife and others.
How to use critical thinking to improve your personal life, stimulates you to test your thought against reality. Gathering and weighing the evidence for and against your thought, gives you an objective measure that leads to a more constructive thought. This constructive thought reflects a more helpful way of viewing reality.