What do you do first when something happens in your life? Most people decide whether it is good for you or not and give that event a label — “positive” or “negative”.
In reality, the event is neutral. We use our perception and life experience to label it. The problem is that these labels affect the way we think and how our minds operate.
The “negative” label tends to attract more negative thinking in your life, which in turn makes it harder for you to see good in life, feel lucky and be happy. You start noticing bad things happening more and focus on shortcomings. The “positive” works the opposite way and helps you see the world through the prism of possibilities.
So what is positive reframing? And why should you care about it?
Positive reframing is a technique that helps you see the other side of an event, another person’s behavior, a problem or a challenge, in personal relationships.
For me, positive reframing is about seeing opportunity in unfortunate events in life. You can find a silver lining in almost any situation if you know where to look.
There is plenty of research, books, and articles about the benefits of positive thinking and its power over the human mind. And reframing is the technique to tap into that mindset.
Reframing literally means changing the point of view. Such a seemingly simple approach can significantly help you to:
- reduce stress
- become more resilient
- open your mind
- attract new opportunities
- strengthen relationships
- changes the way you see the world
- respond, not react
- promote gratitude and appreciation
There are a lot of objectively bad things happening in the world, there is no denying that. Violence, sickness, feud have no excuse. Positive reframing, might not change the world, but it will help you see it not as an enemy but as a partner (a weird one, but still more friendly than not).
There is No Secret Sauce
Positive reframing starts with a mindset. And this is a difficult part because you need to be aware of your reactions and replace thought patterns. It requires effort and time.
It took me a good couple of years to make positive reframing a strong habit. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get upset with the setbacks in life — it means that I choose to move past them and not let them affect me in the long run.
But there is no special secret technique that you can use. Here is what I did. Every time I would catch bad thoughts sneaking into my mind I would make an exaggerated effort to replace them.
Why exaggerated? Negativity can feel paralyzing. If you‘ve seen Harry Potter movies you probably remember a spell called “Riddikulus” that would turn Boggarts (who portray fears) into something ridiculously funny. So they were fighting the deepest fears with the most hilarious thing they could think of.
Exaggerating the absurdness of the situation helps to shift focus. To set a pendulum in motion you first need to pull it in an opposite direction. Same with mindset. The stronger a negative thought is the stronger a positive response should be.
What is the opposite of a setback? An opportunity. When you start looking for possibilities instead of focusing on a shortage, you train your brain to stay alert of the good things happening in your life.
At first, it will feel forced but with time it will come more and more natural to you, and that’s how you know that your mindset has changed.
Back To You
Bad things will always happen whether you want them to or not. We can’t avoid getting hurt, making mistakes, and we can’t control circumstances.
But the good news is that even though you can’t always control the situation around you, you still can decide how to see it, and you can choose what actions to take.
Start small. Start with gratitude – it will help you to wire your mind to see good things around you, no matter how small they are. So the next time you are feeling stressed or sad you can recall these little beacons and recognize a negative thinking pattern.
It takes an effort to make positive reframing a habit so don’t stress over it if it doesn’t come naturally to you in the beginning. It will with time. Keep trying.
Originally published at https://medium.com/ on May 4, 2020.