Reframing Your Thoughts

Even though you can’t predict the next thought you'll have, you can exercise and train your mind just as you exercise and train your muscles. Apply these simple reframing strategies to help exercise control over unhelpful thought patterns. Try each strategy, noting which one resonates with you most, and continue to practice that one.

1. Identify and Name Your Thoughts

Awareness is the first step to reframing any thought.

  • Notice it. Pause when you have pain or a recurring situation and ask, “What am I thinking right now?” For example, you might think, “This hurts,” “I can’t do it,” or “I’ll never get better.”

  • Connect your thought to an emotion. Did the thought stem from fear, worry, anger, or sadness? Identifying where a thought comes from helps you be more aware of it in the future.

  • Name the type of your thought: Is it positive, negative, or neutral?

2. Create Distance

Remember: You are not your thoughts. Use the strategies below to put some distance between yourself and an unhelpful thought pattern.

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

  • See the thought as if it were inside a bubble or balloon, floating farther and farther away from you each time you exhale.

  • Visualize the thought as a landmark rushing by as you sit on a train.

  • Practice RAIN with the thought:

3. Challenge and Change Your Thoughts

Simply challenging negative thoughts can transform them into empowering ones.

  • Once you notice a thought, ask yourself, “Is it true? Is it useful? Is it kind?” Your thought may feel true, but consider how you can also make it useful and kind. For instance, rather than thinking, “I hurt and I can’t change it,” try “I hurt right now, but I am strong and I am getting better.”

  • 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 know with certainty that it’s true?

  3. How do I react to this thought?

  4. Who would I be if the opposite were true?

Reframing takes practice and requires some dedication and commitment. Your thoughts may not transform overnight, but it will happen.


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