3 Tips to Reframe Bad Situations
'Good' and 'bad' are labels we attach to almost everything that affects us - from our coffee in the morning to the train journey after work. When it comes to our personal lives, reactions to any given situation tends to be automatic, leaving us with little room to look at whatever's going on from another angle. So it is possible to reframe something we'd initially describe as 'bad', and how do we do it?
Suppose you lose your job - the first thing most people would feel is fear, sadness, and a horrible dose of unworthiness. But suppose the time was taken to understand why those are our immediate reactions - would it be possible to feel any differently?
Our minds make an automatic 'cons' list when we're faced with change, which tends to be why most people are averse to it. Jumping to negatives first is a survival mechanism that stops us causing chaos with every decision, but it can also hold us back. It's within our power to turn our reactions around and add a better, longer 'pros' list when the crap hits the fan, and we've listed three starting points for how to get there.
Often we allow negative thought patterns to occur without questioning them. Next time things don't go to plan, take a moment to sit with your emotions and check how they manifest in your body. Is it a tightness in your chest, or a discomfort in your stomach? Do you get a headache or a dry mouth? Once we begin to notice the physiological impact of our negative thoughts, we're given a chance to nip our anxiety in the bud and begin challenging our assumptions before they overwhelm us.
Once you've identified that you've fallen into a negative thought pattern, start grilling yourself as to why. Our minds often jump to the worst possible outcome and we take it as gospel without any further questions. If you start to hear 'I'm not good enough' or 'you deserved this', counter the nasty thoughts with more positive, rational questioning. Why are you really feeling like this, and is there any basis to it? What caused it and how does it truly impact your immediate future?
Time to pull out the list of 'pros'. Once you've challenged yourself on whether there's any truth in your negative self-talk, it's time to approach the situation with an alternative list of consequences - ones that are both positive and uplifting. Very few situations leave you with no alternatives, and whilst something like losing a job or a breakup may leave you feeling lost in the short term, we forget that change opens up so many opportunities for happiness in the longer term. Step back from the details and look at the bigger picture to understand that the future isn't scary, it's exciting.
It's always helpful to remind yourself of the adversity you've overcome in the past. The pain of loss and heartbreak doesn't last forever, and can create stepping stones to bigger and better things. Take an internal stock of all the times you've been resilient, overcome hardship, and benefitted in the long run.