Reframing Negative Thoughts
30 Sep 2022
Negative thoughts are normal and will arise from time to time. However, when negative thoughts become habitual, these thoughts can lead to anxiety, depression and many other mental health disorders.
Reframing can be explained as when you actively notice unhelpful thoughts in your mind and reframe them into more useful thoughts. Our thoughts are the cornerstone of our success. How we view ourselves impacts our progress and persistence towards our goals. Positive thinking is a cognitive pattern that requires effort and focus.
5 Tips for Reframing Negative Thoughts
We have about 6,000 thoughts a day. However, we have had the same thoughts before – our thoughts are on autopilot. Often, we do not even recognize negative thoughts since they have become so familiar. This internal dialogue can range from what we want to eat for dinner, work scenarios, assumptions about circumstances, observations, what others think about us, how we feel about ourselves, and so on. Once the negative thoughts take over, many self-destructive behaviours may also take over. Therefore, learning to reframe thoughts will help one remain hopeful, grounded and motivated. The way we think about what’s happening affects the way we feel and behave. Below are five strategies to help you quickly reframe negative thoughts into positive thoughts:
1. Understand the Types of Negative Thoughts
The first step is to become aware of our negative thought patterns. These are thoughts that enter your mind when something goes wrong or thoughts that may have continually entered your mind whenever you experience the same scenario. Some thought patterns which cause negative thinking are:
We often think of extremes, such as always or none, all or nothing – which are opposite ends of the extreme. For example, a person thinks: “I always work late” or “If I mess this project, then I’m not worthy of working for this company.” All-or-nothing thinking is a negative thinking pattern that polarizes situations, experiences, choices and people.
Prancing on the Positive
Yes, often, we discount the positive events of our lives as mere flukes or lucky breaks. When we fail to celebrate these positive events in our lives, we tend to think of negative events as normal. We begin to accept negativity more often than we used to. Celebrating big and small wins is just as important to our overall success.
Get Rid of Should
You set rigid expectations, filled with what you “should” do. The additional pressure and expectations contribute to our fear and worry. This can lead to exhaustion, causing a build-up of negative energy.
Lack of Self-Compassion
Our thoughts and words are filled with self-blame. We even blame ourselves for situations that are beyond our control. Things that happened in the past can come back and weigh us down, thus increasing our negativity.
Our thoughts automatically go to the worst-case scenario. If your partner runs late for weekday date night, you naturally think your partner was in a terrible accident. This thinking causes us to go into fight-or-flight mode, operating from a space of fear.
2. Challenge Negative Thoughts
Once we have identified negative thinking, next, we challenge these thoughts. Ask yourself if the events in your life justify your thinking or are your thoughts based on negative assumptions. Think of other ways and instances that you have made a positive action, contributed or will be making one.
Quick Challenge on Negative Thoughts
A quick, and easy way to challenge negative thinking is to think in terms of, “Yes, __________, but____________”. For example,
- “Yes, I overspent on groceries, but I am packing lunch for the next couple of days.”
- “Yes, I overslept, but my body feels more refreshed.”
Combat negative, harsh inner dialogue with concrete compliments. Make a list of characteristics and traits which you are complimented for or things you know are your strengths.
3. Say Positive Affirmations
Affirmations are positive statements used to challenge negative thinking. According to recent studies, affirmations are a great way to overcome negative thinking and build yourself up. We live in a society where it’s easy to get bogged down with lots of negativity, Positive affirmations are a way to help shuttle out some of that negativity, in terms of the things that we say to ourselves.
Here are some examples of reframing negative thoughts:
- I welcome positivity into my life.
- I abandon old habits and choose new, positive ones.
- I am gentle with myself and others.
- I control my thoughts.
- I release all thoughts that don’t serve me and empower me.
- With each breath I take, I release negative thinking.
- Comparison is the thief of joy. I release comparing myself to others.
- I am beautiful. I am strong. I am worthy.
- I am resilient when I face challenges.
How to Create Positive Affirmations
Start by becoming aware of your negative thoughts. Write a list of your negative thoughts, then turn them into positive affirmation statements. Here are a few more reframing thoughts examples to support you in creating affirmations:
- I am open to believing ….. (I can overcome my negative thought patterns)
- I believe I am capable of … (reframing my negative thought patterns)
- I know I am … (loved, and supported)
- I intend to …. (release negative thoughts one thought at a time)
Remember, positive affirmations work through repetition. It’s not enough to just read them once. Just as your negative thought patterns formed through time, reframing them will require some time. Identify the affirmations that resonate with you, then it may help you in reframing negative thoughts.
- Write the affirmations on index cards and place them where you see them regularly.
- Write your affirmations in your journal as you say them aloud.
4. Practice Journaling to Reframe Negative Thoughts
If you have trouble being aware of how to reframe negative thoughts, try writing in a journal. Journals are one of the best ways to reframe our thinking and begin to replace negative thought patterns with positive and empowering thoughts. Below are some journal prompts you can use to practice reframing negative thoughts:
- What negative thoughts am I experiencing?
- Is there truth behind this thought?
- What do I secretly believe is true about myself that’s causing me to think this?
- What evidence do I have to disprove this thought?
- How can I look at this differently?
- What happened to cause me to think this way?
- What can I learn from this thought/situation?
- How might I approach this differently next time?
5. Give Yourself Grace and Patience
Practice self-compassion when reframing negative thoughts. Give yourself grace and patience with challenging, unproductive thoughts. It is never too late to combat the negativity in your life. Therefore, there is no need to rush and feel pressured when these thoughts are still there. Remember, life is a beautiful journey. On this journey, you have been thinking many of the same thoughts for an extended period. Recovery is never an easy and fast process. You can improve your thoughts, and you will eventually overcome the negative thought patterns. But give yourself grace and patience. Be kind to yourself as you owe it to yourself. And once you are already there, celebrate your success.
Understand the Types of Negative Thoughts that enter your mind. These can vary from thinking extremes, neglecting the positives and celebrations, regrets, lack of self-compassion and thinking of the worst-case scenario.
Challenge Your Negative Thoughts and focus on the positive things that you’ve done on the contrary.
Say Positive Affirmations to yourself – do it loud and proud. Being positive starts in the mind. So train your mind to become positive by always hearing and indulging in the positive. You can start by simply saying, “I can do this,” and slowly work on adding more.
Writing in a Journal also helps solidify your action.
Give Yourself Grace, and as all things take time. It may take you a long journey to finally say you’ve reframed your thoughts. But it will always be worth it.
Negative thoughts erode your confidence by causing you to lose trust and belief in yourself. You can reframe your negative thoughts and build confidence by noticing the negative thoughts, stopping them, then choosing more positive or empowering thoughts. This can be hard, and time will only tell if you have made it. Start paying attention to your thoughts throughout the day. The more you are aware, the more you can make changes in yourself. Each time you notice a negative thought, note it, remember it, analyse it and say “stop,” then choose a new thought.