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In its most basic form, cognitive reframing is changing how you think. It is one way that we can help ourselves to see something in a different way. Have you heard of the term rose colored glasses? Well, people can also have brown-colored glasses.

We can develop a negative perspective from many different things.

  • Our upbringing
  • Trauma
  • Internalizing a critical voice
  • Depression

Let’s get one thing straight. Some negative thoughts are normal. It is okay if you have them from time to time. It is habitual negative thoughts that become problematic. There are lots of different ways to treat them, but cognitive reframing is one technique.

Trauma can color our worldview. When one bad thing happens, it can cause us to believe that only bad things happen. If we had a critical parent, we may have internalized their negative voice. Depression can also give us a negative perspective. Cognitive distortions are the main target of cognitive behavioral therapy. According to Regine Galanti, the idea of reframing your thoughts starts with accepting that not all your thoughts are true just because you have them.”

What is a cognitive distortion?

A cognitive distortion involves negative thinking patterns that aren’t based in reality.

One common distortion is catastrophizing. When we catastrophize, we think the worst-case scenarios. Another common cognitive distortion is black or white or all or nothing thinking. This type of thinking can cause us to think all good or all bad and we miss the grey areas.

Cognitive reframing can help with:

  • Addiction
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Chronic pain
  • PTSD
  • Relationship issues

Reframing is a process of shifting a negative thought to a positive one. It is when we find an alternative response to a situation. Two things that you can do when reframing is look at the evidence and practice compassion. When we look at the evidence, we can stop our irrational thoughts in their tracks. We can ask ourselves, is it really true that I am a bad person? Is it really true that I am a failure? or is it true that I am struggling with math and maybe I need some help with it. Is it true that I am a bad partner or is it true that am I overworking and can do a better job at practicing balance.

Practicing compassion

Kristen Neff, Ph.D is a pioneer in the study of compassion. She talks about the importance of being compassionate instead of critical and harsh. Research shows that self-compassion is a powerful source for resiliency. When we reframe our thoughts, we should aim to use compassion in developing our new thought pattern.

Here are some examples of reframing:

Negative thought: I am not good at this

Reframe: I am on a learning curve. I am learning a new skill

Negative Thought: I shouldn’t feel sad

Reframe: It is okay to feel my feelings

Negative Thought: How could I make this mistake?

Reframe: I am human. I am learning from this experience.

Negative thoughts: I am going to fail this exam

Reframe: I studied and worked hard on this. I am going to do my best

The Takeaway:

Some negative thoughts are normal. However, if you find yourself being harsh, critical or thinking the worst-case scenarios, practice reframing your thought patterns into realistic yet compassionate thought patterns.

Modern Therapy and Wellness is a group practice in New Orleans, Louisiana. We see individuals and couples in our mid-city New Orleans office. We see people virtually anywhere in Louisiana. We help people with general life stressors and difficulties. We specialize in the areas of couples, relationships, anxiety, chronic illness, addiction and grief. You can email us info@moderntherapyandwellness or call us at 504-452-1483 for a free phone consultation.

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