Frances Farmer

Re-frame Your Thoughts, Re-Frame Your World

In blog, Mental/Emotional Health on November 6, 2013 at 6:00 am

Stress Outlets will talk about which thinking distortion I struggle with the most, discuss solutions to negative thinking, and lay out a super simple formula you can use to re-frame irrational thoughts.

My Common Thinking Distortion

Personally, I seem to use labeling and mislabeling often. Now that I can recognize the thoughts that fall into this category, I can properly assess why I am feeling the way I am and re-frame the irrational thoughts that lead me to the negative feeling.

For example, if you have the thought, “I am not good enough.” You can refute the thought by realizing all the things you are good at doing and giving yourself credit for those things. You can re-frame the thought by recognizing the thing that made you feel inferior.

For instance, if you struggle with math, instead of saying, “I am not good at math,” say “Math is difficult for me.”

Going one step beyond making the thought more positive, add an action that will help to change the way you feel about the stressor.

Continuing with the example, try “Math is difficult for me, but I can seek help from teachers, classmates, and tutors in order to better understand it.”

Formula for Positive Thinking

The formula for this restructuring being:

  1. Recognize the negative thought associated with the upsetting situation
  2. Refer to Stress Outlet’s previous post to see which thinking distortions fueled the thought
  3. Write down how the negative thoughts made you feel
  4. Turn the negative thought around and make it positive
  5. Add a definite action you can take to change the situation.
  6. Write down the new feelings experienced after re-framing the thought

Stay tuned for a worksheet using this information!

Remember this process when you notice that you’re thinking yourself into a bad mood.

Last week, Stress Outlets talked about common thinking distortions.

This week, Stress Outlets has a list of re-framing methods to specifically combat negative thinking.

Techniques to Change Your Thoughts

  1. Identify Distortions in automatic thoughts.
  1. Examine the Evidence – Instead of assuming that your negative thought is true, examine the actual evidence for it.  For example, is it true that I never do anything right?  What are some things I do well?  What are the things I’m not so good at?
  1. The Double-Standard Method – ask yourself, “Would I say this to a close friend who was very much like me and had a similar problem?”
  1. The Experimental Technique – when you have a negative thought, ask yourself if there is a way you could test it to find out if it is really true.
  1. Thinking in Shades of Gray – especially useful for all-or-nothing thinking.  Remind yourself that things are usually somewhere between 0 and 100 percent.  Instead of insisting you are perfect and never screw up or condemning yourself as a rotten person and giving up, acknowledge a mistake, forgive yourself, and move forward with your life.
  1. The Survey Method – ask yourself “Would other people agree that this thought is valid?”  Or ask people in your life questions to find out if your thoughts and attitudes are realistic.
  1. Define terms – especially useful if you are putting yourself down as “a failure” or “a loser” or “a fool.”  What is a fool?
  1. The Semantic Method – good for “should statements.”  Substitute a phrase like “it would be nice” or “it would be preferable” in place of “I should.”  This may help you look at the thoughts without feeling scolded, and will decrease your rebellious response.
  1. Re-attribution – good for personalization.  Ask yourself what other factors may have contributed to this problem.  Focus on solving the problem instead of using up all your energy blaming yourself and feeling guilty.
  1. Cost-Benefit analysis.  Ask yourself, “How will it help me to believe this negative thought and how will it hurt me?”  You can also use this on negative behavior patterns like overeating and lying around in bed when you are depressed or on self-defeating beliefs like “I must always try to be perfect.”


Try practicing these techniques and see if your irrational thoughts decrease as this process becomes second nature to you.

Happy Re-framing!


Work Cited

 Burns, David D., MD. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.


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