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Hilber Psychological Services

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Posts tagged distortions
How to minimize your "Shoulds"

Too many "shoulds" equals too much guilt. If you've been following Hilber Psychological Services, you already read the post about "Too Much Guilt" and you already know that "shoulds" are thinking mistakes or cognitive distortions and they move us further away from our happiness.  There's a place and time for guilt, but making our daily choices each day typically does not require excess guilt. We want to feel more empowered and "in control" of our decisions, feelings, actions, and our lives in general. So, you know that you need to limit your "Should" statements, but how do you actually decrease your "should" statements?

The first step is to be aware of statements that include "shoulds." The next step is to empower your decision making and take control of your choices. This is an easy activity you can do to minimize your use of "Should" statements.


You make millions of choices everyday. These range from minute choices to larger, life-changing decisions. These include what time you're going to wake up, whether you get out of bed at the first alarm or snooze it, how long you shower, if you shower in the morning, what you eat for breakfast, and if you sit down at the table to eat. We haven't even left the house yet. This means that you also have millions of choices to practice being aware, and accepting each choice you make. You have also had experience with these choices so accepting these small choices will probably be easy for you to practice with.

Each time you make a decision, even a small choice such as what shirt you wear, you can state, "this is my choice, I accept this," or "I choose this decision," or even "this is mine to make, I accept it." Or any variation thereof. The important part is to tell yourself that the choice is yours (awareness) and to accept that it's yours to make.

Now I know you cannot possibly do this for each and every decision you make or you may not make it out of the house in time, but try to do it as many times as possible. You can say this in your head or out loud for others to hear.

By the end of the week, note how often you're able to make a decision without shoulds or guilt and how empowered you feel. Can you imagine how good it will feel if you choose and accept your bigger decisions?

For more information, contact us at Hilber Psychological Services.

Thinking to more Happiness

Ever hear a teenager say "well I don't want to exaggerate my feelings.. I'm just unsure if they will like me?" Probably not. Most of us have heard others say thoughts that exaggerate, catastrophize, and overgeneralize their feelings or emotions - and they aren't limited to teenagers. Research shows such a huge link between emotions and thoughts (or cognitions) that an entire psychological or therapeutic orientation has grown out of this connection. This orientation is widely used and accepted by all kinds of therapists and insurance companies alike.

Here are some points to help you become aware of your thoughts and determine whether they are unnecessarily affecting your emotions in negative ways. The following are "thinking mistakes" you may find yourself thinking:

  • Mind Reading - believing that you know what people are thinking, yet haven't asked them first. Example: you don't receive a call back from your friend, you think "she probably hates me now."
  • Telling the Future - thinking that you can predict the future and know that something will end badly. Example: you have a presentation, but think "it will go so badly, everyone will laugh at me off the stage."
  • Emotional Reasoning - determining the reality and facts based on how you feel. Example: you're nervous about going to the holiday party, you think "I'm so nervous, everyone will see how anxious I am and no one will talk to me."
  • Labeling- attaching negative labels to yourself, calling yourself names. Example: you forget to call your friend back after work, you think "I'm a horrible friend, I'm so stupid & untrustworthy."
  • "Should" statements - using "should" to motivate yourself or punish yourself. Example: you write a report for work, you think "it shouldn't take me so long, it should have less errors in it."
  • Overgeneralizing- making a conclusion based on one or two small aspects. Example: you hear someone at work doesn't care for you, you think "she doesn't like me, so everyone must hate me."
  • Catastrophizing- exaggerating the likelihood that something bad will happen. Example: you're nervous about the meeting with your boss, you think "chances are that he's going to fire me, I won't be able to find a job and I'm going to be hungry & homeless."

If you become aware of these, take a breath and think about what you could stay instead. Instead of "I always do it that way" it could be "sometimes I do it that way" or "I often do it that way." Which ones have you found yourself saying or thinking?