“If a problem can’t be solved within the frame it was conceived, the solution lies in reframing the problem.” ― Brian McGreevy, Hemlock Grove
Living with a mental illness has taught me a valuable lesson, one that applies to all of us. Even those of us without a mental illness.
We cannot always trust our thoughts.
We have over 50,000 thoughts per day. How many of yours are positive and self-affirming vs. negative and self-defeating? How many of your thoughts are reality-based, honestly? I would venture to say that none of us can answer this with 100% accuracy because we’re often not even aware of all the self-defeating thoughts we have throughout each day. In part due to the sheer number of them. But that’s okay! Let’s start with reframing the thoughts we’re aware of.
Question Your Thoughts
I’ve learned not to take my thoughts at face value or to apply them to my life as facts.
Our thoughts are what we make them. For example, if we assign more value to any one thought versus another, it will appear truer. But it doesn’t necessarily mean it is. We’re just giving it more attention, and by doing so we’re giving it life. What if, instead of wasting energy on self-defeating fallacies, we gave that energy to more positive, self-affirming thoughts? The possibilities are endless!
Redirect Self-Defeating Thoughts & Let Them Go
Practicing self-awareness and mindfulness enables us to recognize self-defeating thoughts as soon as they enter our minds. When they enter, we should not simply accept them as facts. We should ask ourselves if they’re based in reality. “I’m so stupid” is not a reality-based thought. It’s a biased opinion, and possibly not even your own.
We are not our thoughts, unless we choose to be.
We possess the power of choice, and we can choose whether or not to accept them as true and valid. “Thoughts are just thoughts.” However, this is only true if we make it true.
Detaching ourselves from our thoughts & looking at them objectively enables us to see that they’re not so intimidating. We don’t necessarily have to react to them. We don’t have to freak out when an “inappropriate” thought enters our minds. We don’t have to judge it & we don’t have to dwell on it.
When questionable thoughts creep into your mind, rather than automatically believing them or stuffing them down, acknowledge them by asking yourself…
- “Is this thought useful in any way?”
- “Can this thought serve me in a positive manner?”
- “Is this thought based in reality?”
If not, gently replace it with a positive thought and allow it to pass on through. Below are 3 ways I replace self-defeating thoughts with positive thoughts.
3 Ways to Reframe Your Thoughts by Replacing Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones
- VIA THE SILVER-LINING: There’s always a positive side to every seemingly negative situation. Find it! And use it to help you through difficult times. Maybe your car broke down and it’s going to cost you a lot of money. The silver-lining? Your daughter has to drive you to and from work, unexpected quality time.
- VIA GRATITUDE: We all have something to be grateful for. Look around ask yourself what that is, better yet, make a gratitude list. It can be small or large. Maybe it’s that you’re surrounded by love. Or maybe you’re grateful that the grocery store wasn’t busy that particular day (check out these two blog posts → Benefits of Gratitude & 15 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude).
- VIA SOLUTION-BASED THINKING: Shift your thoughts away from the problem and onto the solution. As much fun as it is to throw ourselves pity parties, they’re not productive! We remain stuck in the very place that’s causing us so much misery. If you must, allow yourself to go to the party, just don’t stay very long. Assign yourself a time limit. When time runs out begin seeking possible solutions! Coming up with possibilities gives me some sense of control.
We can allow ourselves to be ruled by our thoughts… or we can choose to rule them.
How do you reframe your thoughts?