...let’s reframe this thought!
In therapy, you’ll often hear the therapist say something along the lines of “let’s reframe this thought.” Reframing anxious and negative thoughts is a skill that can be used everyday and all day. You may even find yourself reframing thoughts without the awareness that you’ve used this skill. Reframing negative thoughts can help increase motivation for tasks, reduce anxiety and stress, increase a desired relationship with yourself, increase self-compassion/ self-love, etc. This skill is effective if we are consistent and patient with ourselves. So, what does it mean when a therapist says, “let’s reframe this thought?” How does one practice this skill outside of sessions? If you are someone who struggles with anxious and negative thoughts, I will encourage you to keep reading!
Language is a way to communicate. What we say, how we say, why we say is important if we want clear communication. Have you thought about language and how you use language with yourself? The words we say and how we say them can impact an individual in certain ways. For example, what comes up when you read this sentence- “You should have not gone up for seconds.” As I wrote that thought, I immediately felt judgement, guilt and even shame. The key word in that sentence that invoked those feelings for me was the word “should.” When we “should” ourselves, we are immediately judging or shaming ourselves which can often feel negative. “Shoulding” ourselves can also feel like we did something “bad,” which can also bring up negative thoughts and feelings. When we reframe a thought, (depending on the situation), we can also challenge the thought. We are ALLOWED to challenge OUR OWN thoughts when it is productive and helpful. Ways to challenge thoughts can include statements like “is this a helpful thought?” “Is this a true thought?” Challenging is a way of fact-checking. Reminder, thoughts are NOT facts. They are influenced.
Here is a full example of what a reframe can look like:
“I should have not gone up for seconds.”—anxious thought
“Because I will gain X amount of weight.”—anxious thought
“What would happen if I gained weight?” – the challenge
“I will be unworthy.”—anxious thought
“Is this a helpful thought I am having?”—fact checking
“What makes you feel worthy?” – the challenge
“Well, I have a great job, great friends and I am caring and kind.” – fact-checking
“Great! How can we feel okay about getting a second plate of food?”—the challenge
“I am allowed to get seconds. My weight does not define my worth.” – the reframe!
By reframing, you are practicing communicating with self-compassion in order to reduce the negative/anxious mind. Writing down your anxious thoughts and then following up with statements to combat those thoughts is a useful way to gain familiarity around reframing negative thoughts when they surface in the moment. Decreasing words like “should,” “always,” “never,” from your vocabulary is a way to reduce judgement around your thoughts. The more we judge our thoughts, the more time they stick around. When we judge, we can attach ourselves to the thought. It is best to notice the negative thought, reframe and practice moving on. In order to move on from the thought, the key is to be patient with yourself. We must practice skills to keep up with consistency which means patience. Be patient (this can be practiced my mindfulness techniques), practice reframing and you will feel stress decrease. Reframing thoughts allow us to be free from our thoughts.
Here are some reframe examples-
“I made a mistake; I am a horrible person.”—
“I can learn from this mistake in order to grow.”
“I hate being stuck in traffic!”—
“I can listen to this album I’ve been wanting to listen to!”
“I should have known the answer.”—
“I now know the answer to this question.”
If you are someone who struggles with negative self-talk, and anxiety, reach out to us here at Bella Valore, LLC Psychotherapy in Chicago, IL where we will work the skills with you in an effective, gentle and realistic way that is designed for you! Happy reframing!
-Izzy Brown, MA, LPC, R-DMT
*Note- Skills are meant to manage, minimize and work through stressful situations. Not all skills will work for the same situation. Talk with a therapist to gain proper tools for specific situations.