Have you heard of reframing? Do you use it? I use so often that I actually hadn’t realised how frequently I did it until someone pointed out to me recently. Reframing is an incredible tool to access giving you a way at exploring a thought, a feeling, an emotion or a situation from a different angle.
I think I use this so naturally because I am an optimist. I don’t think being an optimist is about a blind cheerfulness that is chomping at the bit to see everything in a positive light and denies any negativity; for me it’s grounded in hope. Being an optimist enables me to see the positive in a situation. It doesn’t mean that it detracts from the sadness or anger, it gives you a way of looking at something that is grounded in hope. In the same way reframing is not about denial. It’s about opening up and getting curious about a situation. It’s about thinking about how you can use this to your advantage.
Reframing is actually used as a coaching tool and as a therapy technique. Research recently by Shamblaw et al shows that using reframing techniques minimised anxiety and depression, and enhanced quality of life during COVID-19 for those people who were using it. During my recent masterclasses with Jo Lee from Infinite Pathways around creating your own path through the roadmap out of lockdown, one of the techniques we talked about was how our experiences through COVID can be beneficial in terms of what it has taught us about ourselves, about our relationships, about our resilience and ability to cope.
Reframing has been shown to really help with grief and loss, with low self esteem, with stress, with relationships, and I think it helps us to be more compassionate as well because it gives us the ability to look at situations from a different viewpoint.
An example for me is how I turned a sense of loss of control recently (house buying – waiting for other people to manage certain elements of the process that were out of my control) into an opportunity. As I noticed my sense of loss of control, I tapped into some of my inner resources and some of the tools that I have at my disposal. One of those tools I started thinking about was the circle of concern. I realised then that the opportunity that this situation was giving me was the ability to share my learning from this. It inspired a podcast episode to share a tool and technique with you, my lovely readers and clients, that you can use when you feel like you have lost a sense of control. I reframed the situation to my advantage all by thinking about what I could do to look at it differently from a different angle. You can listen to the podcast and download the worksheet here.
I want to share three techniques with you that I use in helping me to reframe.
You may know that I do complete my gratitude journal every night. It’s a small, simple activity that makes a big difference. Each evening, I write down three things I’ve noticed in my day that I’m appreciative of; every evening without fail and especially on the rubbish days. That’s the time when it really counts; when you’ve had a really rubbish day but you’re still able to list three things, no matter how tiny, that have made a difference. Gratitude journalling is another form of reframing. When we reframe, we look for the positives, and when we look for the positives we start finding more and more of them. When you find more positives, you’ll find that you’re a little bit happier, a little bit more appreciative of what’s going on, and more able to tap into that reframing.
The most powerful single word I think you can add to a sentence to help you reframe is the word yet. The phrase “I don’t know how to do this” is very restrictive. It’s very imprisoning, it makes a full stop at the end and there’s no possibility to get out of it. Whereas if you say “I don’t know how to do this yet…” it adds an ellipsis on to the end, which implies that there is a way out, another way of doing things.
When you are feeling stuck in the drama or negativity of a situation, use these three questions to explore viewing it differently.
1) What is this teaching me?
Sometimes you’ll find that the thing it’s teaching you is actually how strong you are, or how much resilience you are able to tap into, Maybe it’s reminding you that you can’t control what people do what other people do, but you can control your response to a situation. Look for the lesson.
2) What are the opportunities in this situation?
Sometimes you can feel like there is nothing but negativity in a situation, but every situation will have opportunities. It may be that it gives you the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, or to appreciate life in a different way. It might be that the opportunity is about new doors opening as old ones close, or about having a new freedom in some way. Go really blue sky and look for the opportunities in the situation.
3) How can I look at this differently?
A really easy way to explore this is to think about it from the point of view of your inner mentor, or someone who you know would look differently to you at the situation. Perhaps it’s your dad who always thinks about things differently. Maybe he’s an eternal optimist and can always see the good in a situation. What would he think about it? Perhaps it’s a friend or a colleague. Put yourself in their shoes, what would they notice? Think? Say? Feel?
You can also do this with different emotions. So for example, if I was looking at the situation with love, what would it look like? If I was looking at this situation from a point of optimism, what would it look like? If I was looking at this situation from a point of generosity, giving it the benefit of the doubt, what would it look like?
Asking yourself a series of questions can really help you tap into the ability to reframe, try it, see how you get on, and let me know.
Reframing is such a strong and powerful tool to have in your armour and the more you do it, the more naturally it will come to you.