Life can feel out of control when mounting stress spirals into a string of dysfunctional thoughts. It might come as a surprise, but stress-inducing thought patterns are habits. Habits can be changed. The logic-based cognitive restructuring process can eliminate stress-causing thought patterns.

What Is Cognitive Restructuring?

Cognitive restructuring (CR) is a component to the collection of psychological techniques called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CR encourages patients to engage more fully in the present moment and has been proven to help people who suffer from thought-induced stress.

CR is a process of psychological talk therapy or psychotherapy that aims to help patients first identify, then change destructive thought patterns and destructive behaviors associated with those thought patterns. Continued practice of CR improves mood while reducing anxiety and stress.

CR Sessions

A CR session can occur in different ways. One way is a session between a patient and a psychologist. Group CR therapy occurs with a group of patients and one or more attending psychologists. Individuals may also elect to practice CR on their own without a therapist.

CR patients are encouraged to practice CR as a part of daily life. Because cognitive disorders can negatively impact nearly every aspects of life, regularly practicing CR strategies outside of a session or CR study time is a treatment requisite.

Cognitive Restructuring And The Brain

The brain is constantly thinking and throwing around thoughts, often without our conscious realization. The ability to think complex thoughts is one of the most wonderful parts of being human. The brain helps us perceive the world and interpret those perceptions.

Trust Or Don't Trust

Automatic Thoughts

Cognitive Distortions

Jumping To Conclusion Bias



Mental Filtering

Polarized Thinking (Black And White Thinking)



Always Being Right



Fallacy Of Change

Should Distortions

How To Use Cognitive Restructuring To Reduce Stress

Brain design art

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Cognitive distortions are common in the modern world and contribute to the growing rates of mental health conditions present in the population today.

Engaging in cognitive restructuring can change these destructive thought patterns to liberate the mind from false thinking. This liberation leads to improvement in every area of life. It helps facilitate better self-esteem, self-respect, and improves social connection with others.

Cognitive restructuring is a clearly defined process that helps reduce stress, ease anxiety, and create a more harmonious existence.

There are four defined steps in the cognitive restructuring process.


Identify Negative Automatic Thoughts

Stress intensifies the likelihood of recurring negative automatic thoughts. Learning to catch automatic thoughts as they arise is the first step in cognitive restructuring. Thoughts play a major role in how we perceive the world around us. They influence our feelings and how we interact with others.

Use a journal to record thoughts as much as possible throughout the day. Do not censor any of your thoughts or feelings in your journal. Journaling can help identify automatic thinking and cognitive distortion patterns.


Identify Cognitive Distortions

After writing thoughts and feelings down, return to the journal to investigate the pages for evidence of the aforementioned cognitive distortions. Look for any thoughts or thought patterns that match the cognitive distortion descriptions.

It might be difficult to find cognitive distortions at first. Stress begets stress and changing thought patterns takes time. This process becomes easier.

Remember that there are dozens of cognitive distortions, far more than could reasonably fit into an article of this size.


Scrutinize Cognitive Distortions With Socratic Questioning

After identifying cognitive distortions, it’s time to scrutinize them. Challenge the distortions with Socratic questioning to see how the perceived “facts” hold up.

Write the cognitive distortion down along with a series of logic-based questions.

There are worksheets online that can help with developing the best Socratic questions to ask for each cognitive distortion. Some example questions include:

  1. What evidence supports this belief?
  2. What evidence does not support this belief?
  3. Am I making any assumptions about this situation?
  4. Have I reached conclusions based on feelings or facts?
  5. What is the worst that can happen from this?
  6. Is there any other way to see this situation?
  7. Are there any actions I can take to change the situation?


Restate Original Beliefs More Accurately

Once you have scrutinized cognitive distortions against Socratic questions, it’s time to reshape the belief in your mind. Reshaping the belief is done by restating and rewriting the original thought in a way that is based on factual evidence.

Do not skip the restating process no matter how strange it feels at first. It is an important step toward changing how the mind interprets information.

The more you practice cognitive restructuring, the easier it becomes. After time, you will automatically catch negative thoughts and begin to scrutinize them; however, this will take practice. Go easy on yourself and know you are making progress toward removing stress from your life.


Mental Human Experience - Brain design words

Image by John Hain from Pixabay

Cognitive restructuring is a hands-on, evidence-based psychological method proven to reduce stress, treat anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Cognitive restructuring liberates the mind from harmful cognitive distortions. By following the simple CR process of first noticing automatic thoughts and subsequently changing destructive thinking patterns, we are rewarded with a new outlook on life. A new outlook—or new perception changes the world from the inside out.

Featured Image by aytuguluturk from Pixabay


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