Reframing Thoughts

Your thoughts can have a big impact on how you feel in your body. You can apply these simple reframing strategies to help exercise control over unhelpful thought patterns. Try each of these and practice with the one that resonates most with you.

First Steps: Identify Your Thoughts

  • Notice the thought. Pause when you have pain or a recurring situation and ask, “What am I thinking right now?” For example, “This hurts, I can’t do it, I’ll never get better.”
  • Label the thought with an emotion. Did the thought stem from fear, worry, anger, or sadness? Name the thought with a label about the type of thought or emotion that you noticed (i.e, anger, worry, fear). This helps to be aware over time of the nature of thoughts for more perspective.2
  • If you’d like, name the type of thought; positive, negative, or neutral.
  • Begin any of the steps below once you notice the thought and name it.

We are Not Our Thoughts - Making Distance Strategies

  • Imagine that thought out in front of your mind, on a movie screen
  • See the thought as a bubble floating by, like an image outside while sitting on a train
  • Visualize the thought inside a balloon, floating farther and farther away from you with each exhale
  • Practice RAIN with the thought:

R - recognize it (notice and name)

A - allow it (don’t try to change it)

I - investigate it (where is it from? Past pain, fear?)

N - nurture (send self compassion to what arises)1

*Note, each bullet point above is its own strategy

Thought Challenging and Changing Strategies

  • Once you notice the thought, ask yourself “Is it true, is it useful, is it kind?” 4
  • It may feel true, but how can you change it to ALSO be useful and kind? “I hurt and I can’t change vs. I hurt right now; however, I am getting better. I am strong.”
  • Use present tense to think about the future you WANT to see: “I AM strong vs. I want to be strong.”
  • Ask yourself what you would say to a dear friend who is in pain or working on a new skill. Say THIS version to yourself instead.5
  • Ask the 4 questions:
  1. What is the thought?
  2. Can I ABSOLUTELY know it’s true?
  3. How do I react when I believe the thought?
  4. Who would I be if the opposite were true?

References:

  1. Brach, T. (2019). The Rain of Self Compassion. Retrieved from https://www.tarabrach.com/selfcompassion1/
  2. Davd, S. Congleton, C. (2019) Emotional Agility. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2013/11/emotional-agility.
  3. Katie, B. (2019). The Work of Byron Katie. Retrieved from https://thework.com/instruction-the-work-byron-katie/
  4. Kaufman, P., and Schipper, J. (2018). Teaching with Compassion: An educator’s oath to each from the heart. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
  5. Neff, K. (2019). The Power of Self Compassion. Retrieved from https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#exercises