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One Tool That Can Change the Way You Think

Reframe your old way of thinking with a new and improved mindset.

Source: niklas_hamann/Unsplash

Has your mind ever spun into a downward spiral of self-defeating thoughts? You know, those pesky thoughts that are like a dog with a bone that just won’t let go? They demand front and center stage and tell you that no matter the situation, the outcome is destined for failure. Make no mistake—self-defeating thoughts can be strong and powerful and they can take a major toll on your emotional and physical well-being.

Fortunately, there is a little secret tool that you can use to literally change the way you think and it’s called reframing. Simply put, reframing is changing how you see something and then expressing it differently. It’s really a psychological paradigm shift that replaces your old way of thinking with a new and improved mindset. Reframing not only changes the way you see, think, and respond to situations, it can also keep your thoughts from sliding down a slippery slope of impending doom.

Sounds easy, right? Well, in theory, it is, but actually doing it can be pretty tricky. Logic often doesn’t jive with emotions and emotions frequently trump logic. This happens way more often than we’d like to admit. Trying to get the logical and the emotional self in sync can be a real challenge but it’s not impossible. It just begins with changing your perspective. You just have to put on those rose-colored glasses.

Are you tired of seeing the glass as half empty rather than half full? Do you frequently think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence? If so, then perhaps you could use a little thought reframing. Below are five strategies to help you get started.

Marijus Auruškevičius/Deposit Photos
Source: Marijus Auruškevičius/Deposit Photos

5 Steps to Reframing Your Thoughts

1. Ride the wave. Thoughts are just a bunch of concepts produced by your brain. They have no emotion nor inherent meaning. You are the author of them and you assign them meaning by how you interpret and respond to them. Just like waves in an ocean, some thoughts are strong and others are weak. Teach yourself to recognize that your thoughts are separate from who you are and allow them to freely come and go. Don’t try to hold on to unhelpful thoughts and don’t fight them; they’ll take you under. So the next time a colossal thought comes crashing toward you, don’t let it pull you out to sea. Rather, choose to “ride the wave." Not only will the view be better but it may help you see the big picture.

2. Look at the situation from an outside-looking-in approach. Remove yourself from the situation by looking at the circumstance from the outside. This will allow you to observe what’s happening from different angles. You can even ask yourself, "What would I think if someone else were in a similar situation? What advice would I give them?" Sometimes looking from the outside in can help you put some distance between the circumstance and your emotions, all while helping you look for the best possible solution.

3. Put on your detective hat. Ask yourself, “What are the facts about the situation and what are my feelings? Do they match up or are my thoughts magnifying the situation?” Emotions can easily steal the limelight from reality. They can also make a mountain out of a molehill. By keeping your eye on the supporting evidence, you may be able to crack your case and move on to life’s next mystery.

4. Hold your horses. When your internal dialogue is screaming out pessimistic negativity, then it’s time to mediate the situation. Rather than jumping on the bandwagon and going along with everything your inner voice tells you, take hold of the reigns and hold your horses. Oftentimes emotions can run wild, and when they do, you can end up behaving recklessly and making impulsive decisions. It's best to slow down and consider all of your options before hastily acting out or jumping to an erroneous conclusion.

yury zaparozhchanka/Deposit Photos
Source: yury zaparozhchanka/Deposit Photos

5. Sift through the dirt to find the gold. Challenge yourself to look beyond the doom and gloom to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Just like a gold miner, you may have to sift through a lot of dirt to get to that priceless little nugget. Don’t let unhelpful thoughts make you miss a golden opportunity.

The next time you start to feel anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed, try to reframe the situation and look at it from a slightly different angle. If you do, you’ll likely end up in a better psychological place. Reframing is one skill that can truly change the way you think.

More from Raychelle Cassada Lohmann Ph.D.
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