Let’s face it – the current climate in the world can only be described as a shit-uation. Gone is our normality, our everyday security blanket and never have we had less control over what happens to us, but that is where cognitive reframing comes in.
Cognitive reframing can be an extremely effective technique to manage the more stressful periods of our lives (and I don’t think many of us have experienced a more stressful period in our lives than this), if you learn how and when to use it.
The term cognitive reframing is actually pretty new to me, it’s one that the wonderful Sophie Cliff introduced me to (and that she has covered this week in her Practical Positivity podcast) and a technique that I have realised I use on a regular basis without realising.
Being a positive peach, I try to look for the good in everything, but certain life events and situations exhaust my silver linings playbook! However, I now have a new play to add to it and it is one that could help eliminate those frustrating negative thought patterns.
Let’s start at the beginning shall we – as humans we are impacted more by negativity, than positivity … thats why politician’s run smear campaigns against their rivals as opposed to running campaigns that promote themselves. When it comes to voting, we are more likely to remember something negative that one party has said about another, than we are to remember something good they have said about themselves.
It’s our negative bias.
Our thoughts shape our beliefs, our beliefs shape our emotions and our emotions shape our behaviour. So if we want to change how we feel about something, we need to start by using re-framing our thoughts.
But what is cognitive reframing?
In order to fully understand cognitive reframing, we first need to understand that our brains are like our muscles (although anatomically it isn’t one) – they have many different parts and just like when we train our muscles in the gym, the areas of our brains that use most get bigger and stronger.
Also Read: How To Get More Organized In Your Daily Life
Well essentially, cognitive re-framing is like a workout for your mind that strengthen the parts of our brains that control positive emotions so that we can work around our negative bias. And it can be used to help any change that we want to make in our lives – if we want to feel fitter, if we want to believe that we are always being told the truth … the change always begins with our thoughts for that reason.
So how can use cognitive reframing to see the good in everything? Here are a few simple steps that you can take to strengthen your positive bias…
… from your mistakes. Mistakes are otherwise known as ‘cognitive errors’ because they are most frequently caused by an incorrect train of thought or reasoning. This can be because you don’t have all of the facts (aka jump to conclusions) or have a mis-perception of a situation.
… your mental awareness of cognitive errors. Between what happens, you perceiving it, and you drawing conclusions about it, there’s a lot of room for error. However, once you know what to be aware of, you are less likely to jump to conclusions.
If you learn from your mistakes you can train your brain to ‘catch’ yourself in the act, question your reasoning and perceive reality accurately.
… your conclusions. As I mentioned before, as humans we have a pre-tuned negative bias and therefore the most important step of cognitive re-framing is to always challenge the conclusions that you draw.
Often this can simply mean looking at the alternatives.
One thing I frequently re-frame is the actions of other road users; that person who didn’t say thank you when I gave way at a junction may not be being ignorant, they may need to get somewhere urgently to tend to a loved one or they may be on their way to an interview and their mind isn’t focusing on the actions of others, it’s focusing on getting them from A-to-B safely.
Usually, our decision making process happens at a subconscious level and our brains will quickly run through all of the potential options (how often do you feel you have made decisions on auto pilot for example), and based on our previous experiences. Our brains will only put forward what they feel is the “logical” decision / conclusion to make. By challenging our conclusions, we make our decision making process a conscious stream of thought and allow ourselves to explore the “illogical” options too.
Many of us will have viewed our current situations as negative ones – unable to work, enjoy our favourite pastimes or see loved ones due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, we can use cognitive reframing to see the good, to challenge our negative thought patterns and make the most of what we have right now.
And if we learn just one lesson from this, isn’t seeing the good a little more often a good one to learn?