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7 Ways To Reframe Your Thoughts Towards Growth


In facing potential stressors, the way we view what we’re experiencing can either help us, or hurt us.

Cognitive reframing is a practical, therapist-recommended way of looking at things that create less stress and promote a greater sense of calm and control. If you don’t already use this strategy regularly, you may want to consider trying it.

What Is cognitive reframing?

Cognitive reframing is a way of changing your perspective on something, thus changing your experience. It can help you look at a situation, person, or relationship from a different perspective. It gives you the power to shift a stressful event into a traumatic one or a challenge to overcome bravely. 

It’s also a way to alter your perceptions of stressors to relieve chronic amounts of stress and create a more positive outlook before making any significant changes to your circumstances. It’s something that therapists often use with their clients, but it’s also something you can easily do on your own,  particularly when you notice any unhelpful, negative thoughts arise. 

So how does reframing work?

The fundamental idea behind reframing is that the lens through which you view a situation determines your point of view. When that frame shifts or changes, so does the meaning. And in turn, your thoughts and behaviors change right alongside it as well.

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Using reframing techniques can be simple, particularly with practice. Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Pay attention to your thinking patterns

The first step in reframing is to get familiar with some of the negative thinking patterns you have that only increase your stress. Check out this list of cognitive distortion to see which ones you experience the most (we all have a few). Learning about your thinking patterns and how they affect you is essential for laying the groundwork for change.

2. Observe your thoughts

Catch yourself slipping into an overly negative or anxiety-provoking way of thinking. Awareness is an integral part of challenging these thoughts and ultimately changing them. One thing you can do is practice being mindful of your thoughts as if you’re an observer rather than an active participant. 

When you catch negative thoughts, note them at first. Then, you can examine these thoughts through your new ‘lens’ to practice catching them as they arise. You can even keep a journal to start recording the circumstances in your life and the thoughts surrounding these sorts of events. 

Meditation is a helpful practice to get you started. It encourages being in the here and now; it gives you a chance to view your thoughts from an observing standpoint. Once you can observe them without holding on, it’s easier to notice your thoughts rather than getting caught up in them.

3. Ask questions.

Ask yourself questions to better understand how to cope with this negative thought cognitively.  When you recognize a negative thought that comes to mind, ask yourself a few questions:  

  • Is this thought accurate?
  • Is it helpful? 
  • What advice would I give to a friend or loved one if they were going through the same thing I am?  
  • Could any other thoughts be more helpful to think, besides this one? 
  • What could I gain from accepting this thought? 
  • What could I lose?

4. Challenge your thoughts.

As you notice your negative thoughts, start to examine the truth or evidence of them (if any). Are the things you’re telling yourself true? Is there another way to interpret the same set of events? Which way of perceiving these events serve you best? Rather than seeing things the way you always have, challenge them. See if you can adopt the thoughts that fit your reality but reflect a more positive, helpful outlook.  

5. Replace your thoughts.

If you’ve been to a hospital, you’ve probably noticed that the nurses and staff ask people about their discomfort rather than their pain. This is a valuable reframing trick you can put into practice. 

So when you’re looking at something negative, consider if you change your self-talk to use less harsh, strong words. When you’re in a particularly stressful situation, practice viewing it as a challenge rather than a threat. Find words that still take your circumstances into account but are less harmful in general and more optimistic.

6. Look at it from an outside-looking-in approach.

Separate yourself from the situation by looking at it from an outside perspective. This allows you to observe and ask yourself, “What would I think if someone else were in a similar situation?” Sometimes looking at things from this perspective can help you create some distance between you and your emotions while helping you look for the best possible solution.

7. Keep practicing and be patient with yourself.

Restructuring and reframing thinking patterns can take time. While it’s not something that happens overnight, remember to stay mindful of your progress and that you have more control than you might think!

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Is Your Overthinking Sabotaging Your Success?

Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success you know you deserve.

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Take the quiz!

Is Your Overthinking Sabotaging Your Success?

Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success you know you deserve.


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Take this quick quiz to find out whether your overthinking habit is holding you back from getting the success (you know) you deserve.