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.

Identify Your Thoughts

Notice your thoughts. 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,” or “I’ll never get better.” Label your thoughts with an emotion. Did the thought stem from fear, worry, anger, or sadness? This helps you to be more aware over time of the nature of your thoughts. If you’d like, name the type of thought; positive, negative, or neutral.

You Are Not Your Thoughts

Once you have noticed and named a thought, try one of the strategies below to put some distance between yourself and the thought:

  • Imagine the thought out in front of your mind as if it were on a movie screen.

  • See the thought as a bubble floating by, or like an image rushing by while you are 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)

Ways to Challenge and Change Your Thoughts

  • Once you notice a thought, ask yourself, “Is it true, is it useful, is it kind?

    • It may feel true, but how can you change it to also be useful and kind? For instance, “I hurt right now, but I am getting better and I am strong” instead of “I hurt and I can’t change.”

    • Use the present tense to think about the future you want to see: “I am strong” instead of “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.

    • Ask yourself these four 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?

Key Takeaways

  1. The first step to reframe your thoughts is to notice and label them with an emotion.

  2. Strategies that put distance between you and your thoughts can help you remember that you are not your thoughts.

  3. You can develop a habit of examining your thoughts and challenging those that are not true, useful, or kind.


  1. David, S., & Congleton, C. (2013, November). Emotional agility. Retrieved from

  2. Brach, T. (2020, January 13). Blog: The rain of self-compassion. Retrieved from

  3. Kaufman, P., and Schipper, J. (2018). Teaching with Compassion: An educator’s oath to each from the heart. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

  4. Neff, K. (2021). Self compassion guided practices and exercises. Retrieved from

  5. Katie, B. (2020, August 21). Do the work. Retrieved from