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Quick Tips for Reframing Your Perspective


Reframing is our ability to look at a situation or experience from another perspective so that we can learn something new or think and feel better about a past event. Some ways we can reframe include:

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Overcoming Resistance

Yesterday I was walking home from the grocery store and two young guys ran from behind me and tackled me to the ground. They immediately started hitting me, kicking me, and yelling at me to give them my money. My first thought was, “Holy shit, I’m being robbed. This has never happened to me before, so I better cooperate.” Then I noticed that their hits and kicks were really “weak.” I no longer wanted to cooperate, I wanted to fight them off. Immediately I yelled “Fuck this!” and got to my feet, ready to fight. But by the time I could look up they were already bolting away toward a car down the road. I checked all my pockets – they didn’t get anything.

    Steven = 1

    Young Thugs = 0.

Upon reflection, I figured that the robbers didn’t really want to hurt me, they just wanted to intimidate me; they expected me to feel overwhelmed and just give in, taking the path of least resistance.

I thought more and realized that actually describes a lot about the obstacles we face in life. So often I find people quitting or selling themselves short when the going gets tough. Maybe they are writing a book and they can’t think of how to end it, or they are trying to build something and they find they made a lot of mistakes. Some people give in whenever they are met with the slightest bit of resistance or uncertainty, and that can stop many from achieving really great things.

Self-efficacy, feeling capable of overcoming obstacles, is key to facing resistance. If we are met with a challenge and think we are powerless, then we automatically submit any control we have over the situation. You can only take action once you think your actions have an effect. Having self-efficacy doesn’t mean we don’t ever face challenges, just as courage doesn’t mean we don’t ever have fear; in fact, both are required. The point is that you try to do your best in spite of whatever resistance that arises.

So I want you to take a moment and reflect on some of the resistance in your life, whatever it may be – work, health, relationships, etc. And I want you to try and find how resistance can be a necessary part of life, growth, and self-improvement. You can’t avoid it in all situations, and you can’t avoid it forever, so you need to learn how to face it head-on, perhaps even embrace it. Whatever you do, don’t give up so easily.

Top 50 in Wellness

Last year The Emotion Machine received a “Top 50 in Wellness” award from I hadn’t shared the award with anyone until now. Cheers!

There were a lot of other good sites listed, many of which I’ve been a fan of for awhile:

There were also a lot missing that I would’ve liked to see:

Truth be told I could probably write my own “Top 50 in Wellness” but I’ll save you guys. I’m sure the last thing many of you need is more sites to distract you from actually going out into the world and making things happen. Don’t become a “keyboard jockey” like me…

…but, if you have the time, definitely take a browse through some of the sites listed above.

Anger Can Make Us More Rational

A recent study in Cognition and Emotion found that anger can sometimes make us more critical thinkers by inhibiting our confirmation bias. Instead of only searching for information that supports our beliefs, anger can create a “moving against” tendency that motivates us to seek alternative information that opposes our assumptions.

The study had participants do two different experiments (which they thought were unrelated). In the first experiment, Group A wrote about an experience that made them angry, while Group B wrote about a mundane, ordinary experience. This has shown in previous research to facilitate a mood change.

In the next experiment, each participant was asked to evaluate their opinions on hands-free mobile kits. All participants were chosen beforehand because they believed the hands-free kit to be safer while driving than holding the phone to your head. Researchers had participants choose several articles to read about the safety of hands-free kits. What they found was that those who were primed to be angry were more likely to choose articles that went against their opinion. Meanwhile, those who were in the neutral state were more likely to choose articles that supported their opinion (an example of confirmation bias).

By the end of the experiment, those who were primed to be angry were more likely to shift from their original opinions. This demonstrates that anger can sometimes be a useful emotion for playing “devil’s advocate” and seeking alternative viewpoints.

A similar study was also conducted in 2008 regarding the election between Obama and McCain. Supports of Obama who were primed to be angry were more likely to seek positive information about McCain and shift their opinions. Meanwhile, supports of McCain who were primed to be angry were more likely to see positive information about Obama and shift their opinions. Anger doesn’t automatically make us change our minds, but by seeking information that goes against our opinions it can help us be more understanding of alternative viewpoints.

I often like to emphasize on this blog how “negative” emotions can serve a positive function, and this research is one good example of that. Have you ever had a positive outcome due to your anger? Share it with us in the comments section!

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Habits Matter

Our psychology and mental health is a two way street. Our internal states can affect our actions and habits, but our actions and habits can also affect our internal states.

Studies have shown that changing our facial expression and posture can influence what we think and feel about our world. For example, in one study participants were instructed to watch a cartoon and rate how funny they thought it was. While watching the cartoon, one group was told to hold a pen in their mouth in a way that made them unconsciously mimic a smiley face; in the other group, participants were told to hold the pen in a way that mimicked a sad/anguish face. Researchers found that those who mimicked the smiley face ended up finding the cartoon funnier [1]. This is one demonstration of how our external expressions can affect how we view the world.

Similarly, there has also been research to suggest that our posture, even when mimicked, can have an external → internal affect on how we view ourselves. Those who mimic a slumped posture often feel less confident in themselves, while those who mimic an upright posture feel more confident in themselves [2]. Something as simple as carrying our bodies in a different way can be a catalyst toward long-lasting changes.

When we deviate from our normal code of behavior, by trying new habits, we can start a change in ourselves that wouldn’t occur if we stuck to our everyday routine. For example, when introverts act in extroverted ways by initiating conversations with others (even when it makes them uncomfortable or feel awkward), they end up thinking about themselves more positively after the fact [3]. By acting in new ways we learn to see ourselves in a new light.

So these are just some examples of how changing our outward expressions can influence our self-perception. It’s not always the case that personal change must come from within – such as through introspection or meditation – sometimes it helps to just go out and try things (even when they feel “out of character”) and see how they affect you.

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Articles mentioned.

[1] Is the Perceived Humor of a Video Clip Affected by a Smile? [PDF]

[2] Body Posture Affects Confidence In Yourself

[3] Introverts Feel Better About Themselves When They Interact with Others

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