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:
Turning a negative into a positive.
If something bad or painful happens in our lives, we can often reframe that experience as something that made us a stronger or smarter person in the end. Failures can be seen as learning experiences. Psychologists are also now identifying something known as “post traumatic growth,” where those who go through trauma end up more resilient and optimistic. Being able to find the good in the bad is a key characteristic for any healthy mind.
Broadening your perspective.
In the moment, a bad experience can feel like the end of the world. But when you look back on it after a week, month, year, or even decade, the event often loses a lot of its affect. How many of you can look back on an experience you once thought was really terrible, and now it seems like nothing? Sometimes we wonder why we ever got so upset in the first place. Imagine yourself 20 years down the road, will you care as much about those same things that are troubling you now? When we broaden our perspective, things don’t often seem as important as we like to make them out to be.
The “things could be worse” perspective.
No matter how bad things are for you, there is almost always an alternative situation that is even worse. Imagining how things can be worse can help us be more grateful toward the things we do have, and not necessarily focus on just the things we lost. This attitude works especially well for aspects of life that are outside of our control. Maybe your house burned down and you lost everything, that is an awful situation, but you can reframe it and think “at least I still have my friends and family.” Maybe you are currently going through some financial troubles, but does it really compare to the lives of those in poor third world countries? Imagining how things can be worse is a great way to change your perspective and be more thankful for what you have.
You can read more about this kind of reframe (from the perspective of Stoicism) here.
Empathic perspective-taking is a type of reframe where we imagine ourselves experiencing a situation from another person’s perspective. By stepping into someone else’s shoes we can get a better idea of their intentions and why they acted the way they did. This can be a very useful skill for understanding why people sometimes do things that hurt us (intentional or not), and we can better learn to forgive by letting go of resentment, grudges, and other negative feelings we hold against others.
Check out The Science of Self Improvement to learn more tools and techniques to help improve yourself on a daily basis.