• Michael Barrows

Re-framing Thoughts

Often in our lives we will be plagued by negative thoughts. Part of our normal worry, is to think about the future and find solutions. Anxiety is something more than that. It wonders about more 'What if....' possibilities, it wonders what others think of us, the likelihood of negative situations and also what this can say about us?

Without learning to challenge these thoughts or manage them more effectively, they can become restrictive and self sabotaging. We can be left at a point of inactivity because we worry too much about what could happen that we choose to avoid the situation. The idea of it becomes overwhelming or too uncertain. Again this seems a perfectly natural thing to do, why put ourselves through a potentially negative situation, why put ourselves through that negative feeling? But when we avoid a situation, our thoughts equally do not help. They start to tell us how we're not doing anything productive, or now there are negative consequences for not doing the task such as how we might be perceived.

An example of this can be when we're feeling tired and choose not to see friends. We believe we have avoided some awkward situation but now we've also missed out on a key social moment. for those who experience any sense of low mood generally, are no doubt going to get that voice that says 'everyone thinks you're boring now'.

Re-framing thoughts is the ability to look at the positive opportunity within this, but also questioning the reality of what is happening. I recently was talking on a podcast ( and we were speaking about how sometimes we worry about burdening others with how we feel. We worry about worrying others and therefore don't talk about any negative feelings. Re-framing this thought would focus on why people worry about us. They worry about us because they care for us. They care for us, because we are important to them and that's beautiful. But rather than talk due to this fear of worrying others, we create the worry anyway, as we shy away from others they become concerned and then we're just back in a cycle of feeling crap because we tried to help and it did not work.

If we are able to see the positives in ourselves, we can see the positive intentions or others and the potential of good in other situations. An example of a way to open up our view of the world is something called positive data logging. Much like naming three good things about yourself in the mirror, positive data logging looks at the positive intention behind our every day activity. Make yourself a cup of tea and ask if anyone wants one? Why? Usually we might say because its polite, or a nice thing to do. But what does it say about us. We don't have to ask, but we choose to. That in itself says something positive about us, that we are being thoughtful, kind or polite. The battle you have with the snooze alarm in the morning, we do it because we believe in some way it will make us feel better, that magical 9 minutes! It doesn't change anything, we still feel tired, but the positive intention is to look after ourselves.

The essence of Re-framing is that if we can't see the good, then we may struggle to accept that it exists. If we can't love ourselves, how can we accept that anyone will.

Try for 3 positives a day, what's it going to cost you? If you hear that negative voice saying you've done nothing good, then question it. How is this even helping me right now? Don't even worry if you can't get three straight away, as long as you are practicing, this will get easier.

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