Reframing Negative Thoughts w/ Examples (Be Happier)
Last Updated on August 8, 2022 by Milton Campbell
Positive Anything vs. Negative Nothing
Negative thinking can be a slippery slope. It starts off as a habit but quickly becomes part of your identity. If you find yourself constantly thinking negative thoughts, it can be difficult to change your mindset and reframe negative thoughts into something more positive.
Luckily, there are several strategies you can use in order to create positive habits and change your mindset when negative thoughts arise. We’ll explore these strategies below.
Table of Contents
- What is Negative Thinking
- What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
- What Can Cognitive Reframing Help With
- Effectiveness of Reframing
- What Causes Many Negative Thoughts
- Tips for Reframing Negative Thoughts
- Wrapping It Up
What is Negative Thinking
One of the first steps to reframing negative thinking is to understand what it is. Negative thinking is looking at the downside to situations. Basically a glass half empty type of self-talk.
Negative thinking is a habit that can be broken, which means that once you’ve made the decision to change your thoughts and actions, you can do so. Let go of any negative thought patterns that are holding you back and replace them with more positive ones!
What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
One of the most effective ways to address negative thinking is through Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of psychotherapy that helps people identify, understand, and change the thinking patterns and behaviors that cause distress. The goal of CBT is to help you develop healthier ways of thinking about yourself and your world so that you can feel more positive about yourself, others, and life in general.
For example: if you’re constantly worried about failure at work or home because it makes you feel like a bad employee or spouse/parent; this could be reframed as “I will be a great worker and spouse/mother/father.” This new thought process helps eliminate feelings of unworthiness while still providing motivation for staying on task when needed.
What Can Cognitive Reframing Help With
Cognitive reframing is a powerful tool that can help you change many negative aspects of your life. It helps to minimize or eliminate the impact of these negative thoughts by changing your perspective on them. As a result of cognitive reframing, you will be able to replace any negative emotions associated with those thoughts with more positive ones.
Cognitive reframing can help with:
- Negative Thoughts
- Negative Self-Talk
- Negative Self-Beliefs
See Related: How to Deal with Depression: 9 Proven Ways
Effectiveness of Reframing
Reframing is a proven way to successfully change your thinking, which can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. Studies show that reframing techniques are effective at reducing negative emotions, like sadness and anger.
In addition, reframing has helped many people with depression and anxiety by challenging their automatic thoughts. For example, if you feel sad after receiving a poor grade on an exam or being rejected for a job opportunity, try asking yourself “What was the positive thing about this situation? What does it mean for my future?” This helps you shift away from thinking about what went wrong and instead focus on how this experience can help inform a better decision next time around.
What Causes Many Negative Thoughts
Next, we’ll discuss 7 things that cause negative thinking. One of the first steps in reframing negative thoughts is recognizing your negative thinking and understanding why.
Stewing on Negative Thoughts
This happens when you won’t let something go. For example, if you mess up a document at work and beat yourself up over it for the rest of the day. If you find yourself stewing on negative thoughts, it’s essential to recognize that this alone will not make them go away.
In fact, stewing over your problems can actually worsen them and make you feel even worse than before. If you’re feeling down or sad because of something that happened that day, try to take a step back from the situation to examine the circumstances from a different perspective so that you can improve how you see things in the future.
Blaming Your Fails on Others
Blaming others for your failures is another way to avoid responsibility. You begin to think that the world is against you and that things are impossible because no one will ever let you win.
This kind of thinking can be detrimental to your self-esteem and confidence, which can lead to depression or anxiety. When we blame others for our own shortcomings, we start believing that there’s nothing we can do to change our situation or improve ourselves. This leads us down a dangerous path where we eventually give up trying altogether.
It’s easy for us humans to fall into patterns of negative thought when it comes time to assess our own performance but by recognizing these thoughts as harmful and choosing instead to examine what went wrong so we can remedy them in the future (or simply learn from them), we can break free from such negative loops and stop blaming others for our failures!
Using Should Have Statements
It’s great to reflect on mistakes or problems but use it in a way to plan for the future and not beat yourself up over what you should have done. Saying, “I should have gotten to the gym earlier,” is a bad habit. It’s negative and focuses on the past, which can lead to feelings of regret, guilt, anxiety, and depression.
Instead of saying you should have done something differently in the past (we all make mistakes), focus on what you can do differently in the future by using affirmations instead of should statements. For example say, “I will do it this way tomorrow”.
Making Negative Thoughts Bigger Than They Need to Be
It can be easy to let negative thoughts run rampant. When you’re feeling down, it’s hard not to think about how bad things are and how they never seem to get better.
It’s a natural reaction, but when you focus on the negative aspects of your life, they only become bigger than they need to be in your mind. Instead of looking at everything as bad or negative (which is what our brains want us to do), try reframing those thoughts so that they don’t seem as big or scary as they once did.
Not Getting Everything You Want
Sometimes you actually get a win but you feel like you failed because you didn’t get everything you wanted. For example, let’s say you asked for a $2 raise at work but only got $1.50. This is a victory that may feel like a loss because you didn’t get everything you want.
It’s easy to overlook small victories when we’re feeling disappointed or frustrated with ourselves or our circumstances, but it’s important not to forget them because they are sources of self-compassion and pride. When we want things for ourselves and don’t get them, it helps us move forward if we can find a way to recognize our own achievements instead of focusing solely on what we want but don’t have.
Assuming a Negative Outcome Before it Happens
When you start seeing a negative outcome before it happens, your brain is going to start feeling anxious. This can cause you to think negatively even more. You will notice that often when people are stressed or anxious they tend to assume the worst and become very pessimistic in their thinking.
It’s ok to plan for the worst but don’t accept it before it comes! We all have had situations where we have planned for something great and then our plans fell through at the last minute. Don’t let this turn you into a pessimist, always expecting the worst.
Taking Everything Personally
When you take everything personally, you’re assuming that other people’s actions are a direct result of your actions and reactions. For example, if someone misses a deadline, don’t take the blame because you didn’t send them multiple reminders.
This can be harmful because it puts too much responsibility on our shoulders. We begin to shoulder everyone else’s problems and take them in as our own. This can be very bad for our psyche.
Tips for Reframing Negative Thoughts
Now let’s discuss some tips on how to reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones.
Focus on the Positive Instead of the Negative
It can be hard to stay positive when everything seems so hopeless and overwhelming, but there are ways you can reframe your thoughts so they’re more positive and motivating. The first step is by focusing on what’s already good in your life instead of dwelling on the bad things that keep coming up for you. Here are some examples:
- Focusing on success: When you focus on success, it gives you something positive to think about when negative thoughts come up and that makes it easier for those thoughts to disappear! For example: “I’m successful because I was able to get this job.” Or “I’m successful because I paid off my debt!”
- Focusing on what you have: Instead of thinking about all the things missing from your life or feeling jealous of other people who seem like they have more than you do (which is really just their perception), focus instead on what’s available right now. Things like love from friends/family members or items such as food/clothing provide comfort during difficult times.
Don’t Take Things Personally When They Aren’t Meant to Be
If you find yourself taking things personally when they aren’t meant to be, then it’s time to change. We’re all guilty of this at one time or another, but it’s important to recognize that other people are not thinking about us all the time. It’s also important to realize that they don’t always have our best intentions at heart; sometimes they just want something from us (or even worse, they might be plotting against us).
Stop Trying to Control Everything
This may sound counterintuitive, but in order to change the way you think and feel, you need to stop trying to control everything.
You can’t control other people. You can’t control situations or outcomes. And you certainly cannot control the future or the past. So why would you try?
It’s better to focus on what is within your power: yourself! When we strive for perfectionism we think everything has to go exactly according to plan and that every detail should fall into place. We miss out on moments of beauty along our journey because they aren’t going as planned. We start thinking negatively when things don’t go our way. This leads us down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts that makes us feel worse about ourselves than if we just let things happen naturally (and accept them for what they are).
Embrace Imperfection, and Allow Yourself to Make Mistakes
If you’re anything like me, there are times when you feel like a total failure. You know that feeling of not being good enough or having done something wrong.
But guess what? That’s normal! We all make mistakes sometimes (I do it every day). And even if we don’t mess up as much, we will never be perfect. But why should that stop us from trying our best and giving 110% of ourselves?
Let me tell you something: no one is perfect in this world. Not even your idols are perfect, so don’t think too highly of yourself either because then it becomes harder for others to appreciate what makes you unique and special as a person!
Focus on What You Have Rather Than What You Don’t Have
Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, turn your attention to what you do have. Focusing on what you do have is a way to reframe negative thoughts and help yourself feel less anxious about the things that may not be going perfectly in your life.
For example, say I wanted a bigger boat but couldn’t afford it. Instead of getting upset and focusing on the boat that I don’t have, I would focus on how I’m lucky enough to have a Jon Boat until I can afford a bigger boat.
Keep Practicing it Takes Time
It may be tempting to assume that you’ll suddenly start seeing the positive side of things on a regular basis, but it’s important to remember that changing your mindset takes time. You can’t expect to change overnight, and when you do make progress it will likely be small at first.
That said, if you stick with the process and continue working on your reframing skills in day-to-day situations over time, then those small steps will add up and eventually become bigger changes in your overall outlook.
In short, practice makes permanent. It’s a process, not an event; a journey, not a destination so keep working at it!
See Related: Strategies for Reframing Negative Thoughts
Wrapping It Up
You can reframe negative thoughts that are holding you back from living a life of happiness, joy, love, freedom, and abundance.
- Focus on the positive.
- Don’t take things personally.
- Don’t stew on negative thoughts.
- Embrace imperfection! It keeps us humble and grounded in reality rather than our own ego-driven projections of what “should” be happening around us instead of what is actually going down.
- Focus on what you have rather than what you don’t have (or lost).
Your thoughts are the gateway to your reality, so if you want to change your reality, you need to change your thoughts.
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