I joke around with our neighbours’ kids that adulting is hard. I’m kidding and yet it’s true. Being an adult is a complex experience in part because we are emotional beings. As humans, we’re wired for safety and survival, we tend to view our circumstances as either negative or positive. Even on the sunniest of days, when we get the perfect parking spot and cruise quickly through checkout at the store, once someone cuts us off in traffic or we get some bad news about one of our kids the day becomes about the negative experience and that’s what we play over an over in our thoughts.
Our thinking mind loves to categorize and judge because of our need to feel safe and in charge. When something interferes with our plans or some unexpected situation arises, our thinking mind will examine all the ways in which this perceived obstacle might be threatening. It looks for the worst that could happen and we’re left to figure out the next steps for our safety.
Our thought process can be exhausting.
When we allow our thinking mind to lead in this way, we pile on stress, which can cause analysis paralysis because we’re over thinking. We invest our time in examining situations from every angle in the hope that at some point, a solution will magically appear. When an answer does bubble up, we second guess it, never feeling fully confident that it’s the right one, so we procrastinate a little longer, hoping that at some other time we’ll feel better about addressing our circumstances.
Yup. This is what it is to be human, when we allow our thinking mind to lead us by making decisions either mindlessly or based on other people’s expectations and values.
“Most of our stress and suffering come not from events, but from our thoughts. Reframe from negative thoughts, and stress subsides.”
Because our thoughts are so powerful, and researchers estimate we have between 60,000 and 80,000 of them a day (most of them negative for the reasons I describe above) they’re worth investigating. In the 1960’s American psychiatrist, Aaron Tempkin Beck helped patients who were struggling with depression to shift from a negative mindset to a positive mindset. The process was termed cognitive restructuring and over time became known as simply reframing, to portray the process of shifting the focus of our thoughts, to ultimately nourish a more positive mindset. Reframing can really help us experience everyday life differently and will influence how we feel about ourselves without changing any of the facts of whatever situation we’re dealing with.
“Our key to transforming anything lies in our ability to reframe it.”
Many people who consider giving up their family home experience anxiety over the unknown and feel their self-worth and sense of accomplishment is tied directly to owning their home. Who they will be without the identity of being an independent homeowner. The concern is real, but we can ask a better question than who will I be without being a homeowner? We can reframe the situation by asking who do I get to be without all the responsibilities that come with owning a home? The first question is big and ambiguous while the second question has immediate answers such as: I’ll have more time to connect with friends and family; I’ll have more resources to do the things I really want to do. In short, I’ll be free and it’s from that mindset that we can make sound decisions about the next right steps for ourselves. That’s the power of reframing.
“I am not failing — I am growing! Do you have the ability to reframe failure as growth in order to achieve your goals?”
-James C. Collins
I think we can all agree that as human beings we’re tough on ourselves when it comes to making mistakes. We learn early in life that the goal is to make our lives run smoothly instead of recognizing that life is a bumpy ride, and it goes more smoothly when we embrace the notion that mistakes are simply opportunities to learn. Let’s reframe the idea that life is happening to us (victim mentality) to life is happening for us (student of life mentality).
Motivational maven Mel Robbins teaches the five second rule: from the second we have an idea to do something, change something or take action on something, we have five seconds before our thinking mind steps in with all the reasons why not. Five seconds to get out of the chair and move our body, five seconds to book the tickets, make the reservation, call that friend before our thinking mind steps in to say you can do that later or not at all. Understanding how we’re wired helps us stay a little ahead of our powerful and negative thought bias, so that we can reframe the situation and decide to take action.
“Attitude is the ability to reframe the experience to empower you to future victories.”
As I’m getting older, I hear people say that if you have your health, you have everything and that’s one last point I’d like to reframe. While we do our best to maintain our health, things happen, and we can easily be taken down. Our attitude and our perspective on life as it is, is where we can really mine for gold. When life serves up lemons, we can tap into our attitude, to help us focus on what’s going well instead of what’s wrong; we can lean on our friends, family and community which are essential ingredients when it comes to making life-lesson lemonade. Interdependence is a key pillar of living a fulfilling life, especially as we age. Instead of imagining the worst-case scenario, we can reframe and ask what’s the best that could happen? When we choose to think this way with wisdom, clarity, self-compassion and acceptance, we empower ourselves to see the beauty and experience the bounty in our lives. We affirm that we are better together and that’s a great way to begin a new year.
This Wellings blog by Kathie Donovan was exclusively written for Wellings Communities and appeared first on MyWellings.com.