Cognitive Psychology - How To Change Your Mindset (Guide)

Cognitive psychology is the branch of psychology that focuses on the way people process information. Cognitive Psychology, suggest that, allusions of the human mind works in a similar fashion to computers. It looks at how we process information we receive and how the treatment of this information leads to our responses.

In other words, cognitive psychology is interested in what is happening within our minds that links stimulus (input) and response (output). Much of the work derived from cognitive psychology has been integrated into various other modern disciplines of psychological study, including educational psychology, social psychology, personality psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, and economics.

The cognitive approach in psychology is a relatively modern approach to human behaviour. It assumes that our thought processes affect the way in which we behave. In contrast, other approaches take other factors into account, such as the biological approach, which acknowledges the influences of genetics and chemical imbalances on our behavior.

Cognitive psychology also includes internal processes such as perception, attention, language and memory. They ask questions like:
  • How do we receive information about the outside world?
  • How do we store and process information?
  • How do we solve problems?
  • How does a breakdown in our perceptions cause errors in our thinking?
  • How do errors in our thinking lead to emotional distress and negative behaviors?

Cognitive psychology is goal-oriented and problem-focused from the beginning. Suppose that as you are preparing for your presentation at work tomorrow, you fear you will fail. Because of this, you are using distractions around you as a way to avoid working on the presentation. This prevents you from preparing properly, which actually causes you to fail. 

Cognitive psychology believes that you didn’t failed because you are worthless. And so it helps you examine and then rationalize the situation in order to understand the most valid reason for your failure and how to make changes that will help you succeed.

What are the three major contributing theories in cognitive psychology?
  • Albert Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
  • Aaron Beck's Cognitive Therapy (CT).
  • Donald Meichenbaum's Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT).

Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy

The framework for REBT was developed by Albert Ellis. Previously called rational therapy or rational emotive therapy, REBT is one of the first cognitive therapies. Today it continues to be a major approach in the field of cognitive psychology. It makes the basic assumption that you contribute to your own psychological problems and symptoms through your interpretations.

Rational emotive behavior therapy focuses on uncovering irrational beliefs that may lead to unhealthy negative emotions. It examines this relationship through what is called the A-B-C framework. Cognitive therapy suggests that psychological distress is caused by distorted thoughts about stimuli that trigger emotional suffering.

Cognitive Therapy

In CT, systematic errors in reasoning that lead to faulty assumptions and misconceptions are called cognitive distortions. Let's examine this with an example. Imagine you do not receive a promotion you put in for at work. You may believe that you were passed over for the promotion because you are seen as incompetent. 

This may make you less likely to seek future promotion opportunities and could even lead to depression. The cognitive distortion is your belief that you are incompetent. When an individual understand their own cognitive processes, they can analyze their thoughts before taking action. 

Cognitive-behavioural Therapy 

CBT is a popular and successful form of treatment for issues such as obsessive compulsive disorder. It takes into account the internal, invisible thought processes that affect our behaviour, unlike the behavioral approach.

Why is it important to study cognitive psychology? It is important to study cognitive psychology to gain an understanding of other people and their thought processes as well as yourself. Behaviors occur as a result of how information is received and interpreted, and individual differences can vary greatly from one person to the next.

Like a computer, the brain takes in information, manipulates it, and then produces responses. Some people are visual learners, while others are better able to learn and recall information they have received via audio. There are lots of audio books on the market these days because of the availability of iPods and similar audio devices.
Other people still prefer to read, a Kindle e-book. 

How many people use audio books and read hard copy books or Kindle versions as well? Most people would prefer one or the other based on their specific learning style, despite the popularity of these devices. Marketing companies also use knowledge of cognitive psychology to help them design effective marketing campaigns.

How To Change Your Mindset

If you contribute to your own psychological problems, how can you change for the better? We all have the power to build an unstoppable mindset. Any successful person alive today is a testament to that infinite capacity of the human potential. Like any other muscle in our body though, the ability to overcome challenges needs to be worked out. 

This ability is in fact the most important muscle to build because it gives you the confidence to face any challenge life throws your way. Being on the verge of impending change is probably one of the hardest places to be. At every point in the road there are decisions that need to be made and questions about the outcome. 

When the slate is blank and the only choice is to either stay where you are or move forward. What choice will you make?

To get to the point of life-changing transformation, you need to do the work. It is the ending of one life and a beginning of another. How you do deal with that fear of the unknown? Here are things you can do in the midst of uncertainty to choose differently that will ultimately change your life.

Acknowledge your courage: Changing your life takes bravery and, even if you think you aren't courageous, you are. Jump into the next phase of your life not allowing the “what if’s” to consume your thoughts and dictate your actions. Open ourselves up to something different.
"Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Thoughts are things! And powerful things at that, when mixed with definiteness of purpose, and burning desire, can be translated into riches." – Napoleon Hill

Change your choice:
Don’t wait for someone else to push you into changing if it involves a decision you could have made yourself. Don’t wait until your hand is forced, Make a choice to change now. Your attitude about the whole situation will stay positive as long as it is your decision.

Make a change before it’s too late: Most things in life have a deadline. Not everything hangs around forever waiting for you to claim it. Opportunities will pass you by if you do not act on them soon enough. Yes, some decisions involving change are tough to make, but chances are, sitting on a choice for two weeks won’t accomplish any more than sitting on it for one week. 

Your life will contain a lot more happiness if you seize opportunities when they arrive, rather than making the decision a day too late.
"Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great." – John D. Rockefeller
Realize it takes time and effort: Changing your life for the better does not mean you will suddenly have a better life where everything falls into place and you sail along blissfully satisfied with your better life. Changing your life for the better takes courage.

The power of your words will help you clearly see the choice you have in how you view your life. Becoming aware of that choice and internalizing the power you have to put your life in your perspective on your terms will help you begin to change your life for the better.

When you can no longer think of a reason to continue, you must think of a reason to start over. There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction. And there are three little words that can release you from your past regrets and guide you forward to a positively new beginning. These words are: “From now on…”

So, from now on…Let the things you can’t control, GO. Most things are only a part of your life because you keep thinking about them. Positive things happen in your life when you emotionally distance yourself from the negative things. So stop holding on to what hurts, and make room for what feels right. 

Do not let what is out of your control interfere with all the things you can control. Everything happens at exactly the right moment, neither too soon nor too late. For everything you lose, you gain something else; and for everything you gain, you lose something else. You don’t have to like it, but it’s just easier if you do.

Change is like breath – it isn’t part of the process, it is the process. In reality the only thing we can count on is change. And the first step toward positive change is to change your outlook. Prepare for the positive. Prepare for the new. Allow the unknown to take you to fresh and unforeseen areas in yourself. 

Growth is impossible without change. If you cannot change your mind, you cannot change anything in your life. Sometimes all you need to do is look at things from a different perspective. When life’s struggles knock you into a pit so deep you can’t see anything but darkness, don’t waste valuable energy trying to dig your way out.

Because if you hastily dig in the dark, you’re likely to head in the wrong direction and only dig the pit deeper. Instead, use what energy you have to reach out and pull something good in with you.  For goodness is bright; its radiance will show you which way is up, and illuminate the correct path that will take you there.

Making a big life change or trying something new can be scary. But do you know what’s even scarier? Regret. So realize that most of your fears are much bigger in your mind than they are in reality; you’ll see this for yourself as soon as you face them. Don’t let them stop you. 

Live your life so that you never have to regret the chances you never took, the business you never started, and the gifts you never gave out. Every person who is at the top of the mountain did not fall there from the sky. Good things come to those who work for them. You gain confidence and grow stronger by every experience in which you truly push yourself to do something you didn’t think you could do.

If you are standing in that place of in-between, unable or unwilling to go backwards, but too afraid to move forward, remember that you can’t enjoy the view without being willing to climb. In the end, it’s not what you have been through that defines who you are; it’s how you got through it that has made you the person you are today, and the person you are capable of being tomorrow.

We learn from every step we take. Whatever you did today was a necessary step to get to tomorrow. So be proud of yourself. Maybe you are not as good as you want to be yet, or as great as you one day will be; but thanks to all the lessons you’ve learned along the way, you are so much better than you used to be and continuously hope for a bright future.

"Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most importantly, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary." – Steve Jobs

In order to change your mindset for the better, your hopes have to be real. It has to be based on something tangible. We can fake optimism and pretend to be happy but deep down inside, we know whether or not we have hope. Hope is not the same as happiness or optimism. It is what we feel when we think that life is worth living, that our work is worth doing. 

Hope is what we have when we have a positive relationship with our Creator. It is the deepest of the three emotions. Happiness and optimism cannot exist without hope. Hope is directly related to our sense of possibility. The greater our perception of possibilities, the greater our hope. The most constricted view of possibility, of course, is hopelessness or despair.

Hope answers the question, “Why bother?” It directly affects our minds and bodies. Doctors know that hope affects our ability to heal. Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine, endorphins and other neurochemicals which promote wellbeing and the energy for living. Hope is our energy, our fuel for living, so people will go to great lengths to protect it. Without it you lack energy to engage with life.

When hope is damaged it affects more than one person. When real hope is denied it is hard to replace. Higher hopes will change your mindset and give you a positive outlook. When hope exists we engage with our Maker more. Often the moments in our life we are most proud of are the ones where we overcame adversity to accomplish something worthwhile. 

Do something that pushes you to your limits and beyond. Nothing will make you feel more unstoppable than revealing to yourself that you are capable of far more than you ever imagined. When we are sizing up our hopes we are essentially taking an existential account of where we are.

Be ready to persist in your mission regardless of how many others may persuade you otherwise. Surely, there must also be a deep-seated motivation behind your pursuit for this particular goal. Persistence is when you keep going because you’re certain of what you want. 

Write down what you wish to accomplish and look at the list every day to remind yourself why you’re persisting. Identify it and visualize the moment when you achieve what you want. Repeating such positive affirmations daily will help you manage your morale and keep your spirits high in times of setbacks.

Keep pushing your boundaries. Innovators embrace risk because they love shaking things up to make things more interesting rather than lead mundane, typical lives.

If Mark Zuckerberg had not taken that leap of faith and dropped out of Harvard to finish up his Facebook project, he would never have realized that his innovation has the potential to change the world. So, venture forth and take some healthy risks and make that change happen.

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