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Unhelpful Thinking Patterns 5/11 - The Mental Filter

Updated: May 9

Visual Metaphor: Hand Holding Lens, Emphasizing Cognitive Distortion - Mental Filter Hindering Complete Perspective

This is the fifth part of a series looking at common unhelpful thinking habits. These are patterns of thinking that our minds can slip into as a way of coping with challenging situations.

You can read more about this in my earlier post here.

Shifting Perspectives: Unveiling the Mental Filter

The mental filter is a thinking pattern that encourages us to focus on the negatives and filter out the positives in a situation; it is a glass half empty perspective where we dismiss any fulfilling and positive aspects of a situation whilst paying particular attention to any inadequacies and negative aspects.

This kind of 'tunnel vision' has been shown to lead to increased levels of anxiety and/depression.

Reframing Reality: Changing Experiences by Altering Perspectives

The majority of situations can be seen from more than one perspective and by re-framing the way we are seeing a situation we don't change it, but we do change the way we experience it - this can make a massive difference to how we feel.

Noticing the Mental Filter in Action: A Vital First Step

To address this thinking pattern, as with the others, the first (and perhaps most difficult) step is to actually notice that you are doing it.

Notice that your attention is drawn to lingering on a few details of the situation rather than seeing it as a whole.

Notice the flavour of the details that are coming to they have a negative bias - this highlights that you are blocking out the more positive parts of the situation.

Our feelings correlate with our thoughts; if we focus on the negative in a situation then we are likely to experience negative emotions along with it.

Processing Thoughts: A Practical Exercise for Mental Clarity

Some people find it a helpful exercise to write down what they are noticing as a way of processing it.

You can ask yourself the following questions to help:

  • What was the situation?

  • What thoughts do you notice?

  • What feelings travel alongside those thoughts?

  • What aspects of the situation are you discounting?

  • What’s a more balanced view?

  • What feelings go with this new balanced view?

Practice Makes Perfect: Mastering Thought Processing for Emotional Well-being

The more you can practice processing your thoughts in this way, the easier it will become; but don’t forget to show kindness to yourself!

Compassion is key whenever we are trying out a new approach; we cannot become masters overnight and there will definitely be rocky patches and slip-ups.

These are all part of the process of development and growth, and fostering a compassionate and supportive stance towards ourselves is an important step in keeping our self-critics at bay.

As I mentioned above, this post is part of a series about the unhelpful thinking habits that we can fall into. You can find the other posts here:

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