Reframing Your Thoughts

5 Ways to Reframe Your Thoughts

Have you ever noticed how a few negative thoughts can snowball into a whole bad day? It’s like a domino effect, one gloomy thought toppling the next. Long ago, that was the definition of my life – one crappy thought after another, after another, and another. I remember when I first read about how to challenge and reframe your thoughts – check out this post from 2011 – it blew my mind. It had never occurred to me that I had any sort of power against the tidal wave that was my thoughts.

What is Reframing Your Thoughts?

Think of your thoughts like a picture frame. The same picture can look totally different depending on the frame around it. Reframing is about changing the mental “frame” around a thought, helping you see things in a new way.

Reframing your thoughts can sometimes bring to mind toxic positivity. But it’s not about trying to make every thought or experience good, happy, or positive. It IS about being balanced, neutral, or factual. It is so important that when you’re reframing your thoughts you’re not dismissing or ignoring the very real (and definitely crappy) aspects of them.

Why Reframe Your Thoughts?

As you all know, I suffered from depression for a huge part of my life and that put me in the mindset of everything is bad all of the time. Reframing helped combat that. It didn’t change the depression by any means, but it did help me see how depression immediately framed (or labeled) my thoughts.

Learning how to reframe my thoughts made things bearable. It helped me see that there were different moving parts to my experiences and my life.

How to Reframe Your Thoughts: A Step-by-Step Guide

Notice Your Thoughts: The first step is to become more aware of your thoughts. Pay attention to what’s running through your mind, especially when you’re feeling down or stressed.

Challenge Your Thoughts: Don’t just accept your thoughts at face value. Ask yourself:
Is this thought really true?
Is there another way to look at this situation?
What would I say to a friend who was thinking this way?

Find a New Frame: Once you’ve challenged your negative thought, it’s time to dig into it so you can see all aspects of the situation and reframe it.

Here are Some of My Favorite Reframing Techniques

Facts Reframe: Challenge yourself to focus on facts AND thoughts. You don’t want to feel like you’re gaslighting yourself and that your feelings don’t matter but what you do want is to understand why you’re feeling like that and then turn the volume down on those thoughts/feelings if they’re blocking out other important information!

Empathy Reframe: With this technique, treat yourself like someone you love. When your favorite person in the world comes to you and feels like all they do is mess up or that they’re a bad person – think of the things you’d say to them. By using your powers of empathy it helps you see yourself (and the situation) in a slightly different way.

Language Reframe: If you’re familiar with my workbooks then you know I am a huge advocate for paying attention to the way that you talk to yourself and the words that you use. Your inner dialogue matters. Sometimes it helps to add an *at this moment to your inner monologue can remind you that thoughts are not permanent.

Context Reframe: Imagine that this situation is part of a picture titled “Your Life”. Now imagine yourself zooming way way way out so that the current situation is just a tiny speck. Where does it fit in the big scheme of things?

Behavioral Reframe: Challenge negative thoughts by doing things that go against them. For example, a “bad” person wouldn’t apologize or try to make amends. When you look at your behavior and can see the ways your actions contradict your negative thoughts it can help you reshape those distortions.

The next time you find yourself caught in a spiral of negative thoughts, remember that thoughts aren’t always factual.

They are often skewed to be more negative than they really are. Sit down and write down the thoughts that are bothering you or the thing that you’re struggling with. Write down the things that immediately come to mind.
“I am a bad person. Things are always going to be terrible. All I do is mess up.”
When you’ve got that part done, go deeper and reframe your thoughts by debunking those thoughts and focusing on a neutral view of them.

Want the full guidebook on reframing your thoughts?

Check out Learning How to Reframe Your Thoughts. In my various workbooks and worksheets, I talk a lot about how to reframe your thoughts. It’s a topic I am so passionate about because it’s really helped me improve the way I see myself . Inside this workbook, I talk about the different kinds of cognitive distortions, reframing techniques, and how to be mindful of trauma and experiences so that positive self-talk doesn’t feel like you’re trying to gaslight yourself.