Our moods are often determined by our thoughts. Cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we take on ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time.

Here is a list (though not complete) of ways in which we sabotage our peace and happiness.

+ All-or-nothing thinking: If you fail at something, you see yourself as a failure.

+ Overgeneralization: If something negative happens, you see it as a never-ending pattern of defeat.

+ Mental filter: You take a negative detail and dwell on it, magnify it exclusively, and filter out all positive aspects.

+ Jumping to conclusions: You make a negative judgment without sufficient facts and evidence.

+ Emotional reasoning: You allow your feelings to determine your interpretation of reality.

We can improve our depression and anxiety by analyzing our pattern of thinking and choosing to change our perspective. I will let the saints speak to this:

“Seal your senses with stillness and sit in judgment upon the thoughts that attack your heart. —St. Thalassios the Libyan

“You will never be happy if your happiness depends on getting solely what you want. Change the focus. Get a new center. Will what God wills, and your joy no man shall take from you.”  — Venerable Fulton Sheen

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for all that He, in His goodness, sends to us day after day.” —St. Gianna Molla

“Above all we ought at least to know that there are three origins of our thoughts, i.e., from God, from the devil and from ourselves. … We ought then carefully to notice this threefold order, and with a wise discretion to analyze the thoughts which arise in our hearts, tracking out their origin and cause and author in the first instance, that we may be able to consider how we ought to yield ourselves to them.” —St. Moses the Black Hermit

“When the devil suggests discouraging thoughts, we must seek help in the remembrance of the blessings, without number, that we have received from God.” —St. Ignatius of Loyola

“Come now, thou poor child of man, turn awhile from thy business, hide thyself for a little time from restless thoughts, cast away thy troublesome cares, put aside thy wearisome distractions. Give thyself a little leisure to converse with God, and take thy rest awhile in Him.” —St. Anselm of Canterbury

“Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love and the future to His providence.” —St. Augustine

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” —St. Paul (Phil 4:8)

Sharon Trani, a nurse practitioner, is a marriage and family therapist with Vermont Catholic Charities Inc.

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