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How to stay positive with mental reframes

How to stay positive with mental reframes

Syed Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, one of the largest free WordPress resource sites that help small businesses start their websites.

I had a mentorship call where someone asked me 'How do you stay positive and keep going forward despite overwhelming challenges?'

The answer I gave was 'Use mental reframes.'

The concept of mental reframes comes from Scott Adams' book Reframe Your Brain where he calls mental reframes the user interface for happiness and success. 

I believe that the best performing leaders use it to great effect to overcome challenges. And I try to apply it wherever possible in my life especially when things look hard when running my business. Here are the different ways to stay positive with mental reframes. 

What is a mental reframe? 

According to Scott Adams, a reframe is about changing your perspective or interpretation of a situation.

It's a cognitive tool to question whether the view hold about a challenge or problem is the definitive one and whether we can change it to a more positive or constructive light.

By reframing situations, you can find new insights, solutions, or positive aspects in what may initially seem like setbacks or difficulties.

However, this is easier said than done. How can we apply a mental reframe without forcing it so you can get real benefits from this concept. Let's explore. 

Be open-minded to a reframing experiment

For most people, shifting your perspective to a more positive one can be impossible. And frankly, trying to feel and think different to how you do right now is not helpful. 

Say you have a major client who is cutting ties with you. Of course, it's hard to just keep feeling good while you're looking at a significant dip in your future revenue. And you shouldn't try to force such a mental change. 

Instead, approach reframing with an open mind and play with a different perspective without trying to change your mind. Play with the idea that your client leaving you also means that you'll be less stressed trying to keep them happy, you'll have more time, and you can pay attention to other clients you neglected. 

Approaching a mental reframe with playfulness and open-mindedness can immediately lower stress and negativity even by a small degree. 

Try an opposite viewpoint

A simple but effective strategy to reframe is to play with an opposing viewpoint. This exercise can create a lot of resistance but can be eye opening and removes some stress instantaneously as you play around with a concept. 

For example, take the idea 'It will devastating to for my partner to quit.'

Now try 'It will be the best thing for me if my partner quits.' Entertain the idea mentally and come up with at least three reasons why this might be true:

  • I regain full control of the business
  • I could find a new partner who could be a better fit
  • I have the opportunity to start over again

It's worth noting that trying an opposing viewpoint reduces the severity of how bad we feel even if it does not change an event that you do not wish to experience. The benefit of changing your mindframe is that even if your partner quits or you lose your client, you don't expend more mental energy than necessary to cope with these issues. 

Practice gratitude reframes

Another powerful technique is to use gratitude reframes. This involves intentionally finding things to be grateful for within challenging situations. While it might seem difficult at first, it can significantly shift your perspective.

For instance, if you're facing a setback in your business, instead of dwelling on what went wrong, focus on what you've learned from the experience or what opportunities it might present. Perhaps it's an opportunity for growth, learning, or even redirection towards a more fulfilling path.

In fact, make it a habit to practice gratitude by mentally checking off a list of things to be grateful for. Or by writing down positive things in your life and expressing thankfulness. 

Gratitude, according to this amalgamation of studies, is important for decision makers in the following ways:

  • You're a better manager and motivate and praise people more
  • Make better decisions in economic scenarios by priotizing the long term over the short term
  • Find meaning in your work
  • Reduce stress and the likelihood of depression

Choose a gratitude reframe when things look bad. You'll identify opportunities you might otherwise be blind to and make the best of your situation. 

Seek alternative interpretations

Sometimes, our initial interpretation of a situation is clouded by our emotions or biases. To effectively reframe, it's essential to challenge our initial interpretation and seek other perspectives.

These are some questions you can ask yourself when you want to break your current perspective:

  • How might someone else view this scenario?
  • What are the five 'Whys' to help get to the bottom of this problem? 
  • Am I thinking in extremes or catastrophizing

Questions like these force you to think of alternative interpretations about a problem. You broaden your understanding of the situation and open yourself up to new possibilities and insights.

Practice self-compassion

Finally, practice self-compassion. It's part of the process to struggle with negative thoughts in the face of adversity. It doesn't help to pile on a difficult situation by questioning your abilities or criticizing yourself. Reframing is possible when you practice it often with time and patience.

Allow yourself to experience resistance and avoid pressurizing yourself to reframe a situation. You're more likely to think effectively if you have self-compassion. 

Over to You

Mastering the art of mental reframes requires openness, curiosity, and self-compassion. And a few helpful tools like the ones mentioned here too. 

The next time you face a stressful situation, take the time to reframe the matter and you're certain to process the situation better. 

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