3 Ways to reframe negative thoughts.

Our mind is one of the very few things that we actually have control over. Negative thinking can be changed. While we don’t have control over other people’s behavior, the taxes we are charged, the weather and hundreds of other things, we do have control over our thoughts which influence how we feel. I have found that sometimes people get so focused on the negative aspect of a situation that they can’t even believe that there may be a positive in it somewhere. Sometimes people just need a little help, or reframing, to see the positive. And at times, I too, need some help.

When we moved to our current house, which is smaller than our previous one, we found that some of our furniture would not fit into it. One item in particular was an expensive piece of furniture. It was well constructed of solid wood and still in excellent condition, so we decided to sell it. It took a while, but I finally found someone who was interested and sold it. I knew we were going to get a considerable amount less than what we had paid, but I didn't expect to practically give it away.  So while I felt good that it sold, there was a part of me that felt like it should have sold for more money and I felt cheated.

I was telling my son this and he did a very effective reframe for me. He said, “Well mom, you had it for 15 years, so you really got your money’s worth.” Once he said that, I felt a really nice shift occur in my body. I did some quick math and realized that it cost less than a dollar per day to enjoy my beautiful piece of furniture. That is much less than a morning beverage at the local coffee shop!  And now some other family is going to continue to reap the benefits of this beautiful piece of furniture.

In Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a reframe is a way to see a situation from a different perspective that is more resourceful. 

It is simply another way of understanding an event. Many times people look at a situation and only see the negative aspect. The meaning of a situation is a result of what each individual decides to focus on. I was focusing on the loss of money and feeling cheated. My son’s reframe actually had me “see” that it was, in fact, a bargain while I owned it.

I had negative feelings about the sale of the furniture based on the meaning that I gave it.

It was not the event, sale of the furniture, rather the meaning that I had placed on it. Reframing can be useful in many situations. When we are experiencing a situation first hand, sometimes it is hard to imagine that there is another way to think about it.

Advertising and politics are two places reframing is very common. I remember a food vacuum machine being advertised on television. The actor on the commercial was demonstrating how you could put your leftovers in the bag and vacuum seal it for later use. Their line was something like leftovers become second servings. For people who do not like leftovers, second servings probably creates a very different picture.

Here are several ways you can reframe something that you are perceiving as a negative:

  • Take a “step back” from the situation and view it from a different angle. When we are experiencing a problem and are feeling stuck, it can be very helpful to gain a new perspective. Think about when you are taking a picture. Sometimes a shot taken from a different angle can really change the meaning of the picture.

  • Imagine that you can float up above the event. And as you are above looking down, you can see yourself in the situation. Act like you are a fly on the ceiling and notice what information you can gain from this perspective.

  • Ask a person whose opinion and judgment you value to give you their spin on it. If you listen closely to the language that people use, you’ll hear many reframes. You may even already do them yourself. How many times, when hearing your spouse or a friend tell you about a problem they are having and don’t know how to solve, you have given them a different way to think about it.

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About the author: Tish Schuman, LPC, CMH, NCC is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Hypnotherapist and is the owner of Calm Pathways Counseling located in Mt. Laurel, NJ. Using an innovative approach which includes Ericksonian Hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, she has helped many people to get relief from anxiety and related issues and find joy and calm in their lives. Click below to follow her on Facebook and Twitter.