Practice Reframing to Change Your Days and Your Life

This simple mental shift can turn all things into the positives that they are

He was one minute late in getting to work. He rides his bike and needs the companionship of the music that, as he says, “pumps [him] up.” So when his earphones died, he stopped to have them repaired. But within the first five minutes of arriving at work, he told two people, then me, how mad he was because he was one minute late. “If only I did not stop to fix my earphones, I would have been on time. I ruined my day.”

“No. You did not ruin your day.” I replied. “You set yourself up for a positive day, filled yourself up with good energy to pour out into your customers, and to lift their spirits in the interactions you will have with them. It was good for you to stop and show yourself care. One minute late will not kill you. It is not your norm. It was a necessity this morning.”

“I like the way you changed that. You’re right. My music pumps me up. It gets me going. Wow! How did you do that?”

“Because I have been practicing the art of reframing.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Look out the windows,” I said. “Reframing means to change the way we see or think about something. It could be a painting, a photograph, a situation, anything really. I reframe constantly when I do not look at my sons’ medical conditions as limiting, but as opportunities to rise, to soar, and to make a difference in the lives of others. I reframe when I see a challenge with a student as an invitation to discover what works for him or her, to implement a strategy, and to evaluate what can be done better to have a more positive impact.

Outside right now is gray and cloudy. We can become glum because it means rain on a day that we want to get outdoors and get some fresh air and exercise. Or we can reframe the weather and our state with a few different words to feed positivism into our minds. We can choose to be grateful for the clouds and rain. Why? Because it will wash the pollen out of the air, reducing our allergies, and clean the environment so that we can enjoy it better. It will water the earth and cause the plants to grow, making our community more beautiful.”

“Okay. I kind of see what you mean? But how do you really do that?”

“All right, look at the window frames. If our window frames were wooden, old, and rotted, or if they were metal and severely rusted, would the windows do their jobs properly? Would the environmental protection, and the safety and security from intruders they give us to be compromised?”

“So, you mean we have to take out the old frame and put in a new one?”

“Exactly. If we do not address the rot and rust as it occurs, we get to the point when our windows fall into a complete state of disrepair. Then, we board them up and lose our ability to see the sun peering through. To take care of our hearts and minds, we have to practice reframing. We can choose to grumble, complain, and lament the unchangeable, which progressively dims the light. Or, we can choose to reframe and let the sun shine through. When we reframe, we see everything in life as an opportunity for change, growth, and self-development. When we reframe, we make a conscious choice to look at the events of life with positivism, hope, optimism, faith, overcoming. When we reframe, we practice gratitude. That spirit of thankfulness then feeds our spirits so that we can nourish those around us with the same gifts.”

Our conversation continued a bit and included some additional benefits of reframing.

In addition to changing our perspective and helping us practice gratitude, reframing also does the following:

Makes us more responsive.

The reframing practice helps us to choose de-escalation instead of escalation when others hurt and offend us. We develop the ability to see things from the other’s point of view, to walk in their shoes as it were, and to better identify and respond to the immediate need.

Increases mindfulness and self-awareness.

Reframing causes us to become better at mindfulness and self-awareness. The natural result of this is deeper self-reflection and self-examination. We become more aware of our propensities toward negativism and the impact of that habit on our emotions and psyche. Habits are breakable, like the glass and the rotted frame. We can create new ones. In working to develop these new habits, we change the operation of the mind and cause our brain waves and thoughts to become more balanced, more even-keeled.

Improves our endurance.

No matter what we are facing, when we practice reframing, we see the big picture or the end goal and all the steps in the process of getting there. We are better able to take up the hammer and chisel away at the old and unproductive while moving forward to that which we want.

Reduces stress, improves health, and builds resilience.

The reframing practice reduces the stress of what ails, affronts, or attacks us. Naturally, when we see an experience or situation as negative, unchangeable, or overwhelming, we take on that weight on our backs and in our muscles, heart, and mind. We let it poison us. When we reframe, we step out of that toxic mood and attitude, and we see the sun’s rays peering out from the gray clouds.

Heart rate varies with our experiences. Emotions like anger, frustration, irritation, bitterness, and complaining, stress the heart and cause it to release adrenaline. The heart rate speeds up, and becomes arrhythmic. Gratitude, joy, kindness, appreciation, compassion, and other positive emotions have the opposite effect on the heart. Positive emotions cause the heart to beat rhythmically. When we practice reframing, we soften and steady the beat of our heart muscles. Over time, we reduce the likelihood of stress-related diseases, and we become more resilient when things do not go the way we planned.

Helps us problem-solve.

In the reframing practice, we choose to ask, “What is the bright side of this situation?” or “How can we improve this situation?” We decide to take the small steps that we can to move towards improvement while letting what we cannot control fall away. We do not get stuck in what has happened in the past and in the rehashing of the old. We immediately look toward solution finding, consideration of the options, and making the next best move.

Helps us show self-love and kindness

When we reframe, we are indeed obtaining many benefits. We profit from gratitude and increased self-awareness. We become more responsive to others, reduce stress, and improve problem-solving. For many of us, self-love is a foreign practice. We live a robotized existence in this crazy world, work hard or work hard at numbing ourselves from too much, or persist in a state of conflict within ourselves and with others. We immobilize ourselves or burn out with constant thoughts of stress, beating ourselves up, feeling out of control, feeling like we are failures, and feeling powerless.

In the simple practice of reframing, we love ourselves through self-reorientation, positive thoughts, understanding, and solution-seeking instead of problem-finding. We love ourselves through the moment by moment recognition that we are are all a part of this larger, beautiful thing, called humanity. We are all, at the moment, figuring it out as we go. By being grateful, present, accepting, or embracing of events, feelings, and thoughts as they occur, we give ourselves and others all the love that is ours for the taking and giving.

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In pursuit of simplicity and meaning. Writing sometimes about my journey. Mom of young adults with Cystic Fibrosis @AbundantBreath

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