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Reframing - a Cool Happiness Tool

Updated on May 10, 2013

What is reframing?

Have you ever taken an inexpensive but beautiful print and had it elegantly framed as a way of improving the décor in your home or office? I do that all the time. I love beautiful things but am not an art collector. I would rather spend money to make something beautiful look expensive. That’s reframing. What I have actually done is to change my perception of something by placing it in a different context.

Some examples

Have you ever been served a meal that you know should taste good but because of how it was presented to you, you suddenly don’t feel that hungry? That meal could benefit from reframing (i.e. re-plating). One more example: have you ever been extremely angry at someone that you know could ruin your life? So instead of telling your supervisor to “shut up because you are so stupid!” you say “Yes sir, I understand what you are saying. I am going to get back to work now.”

Reframing involves identifying our negative, discouraging thoughts and replacing them with more positive, optimistic ones. When you reframe you choose to interpret things differently. Your perspective, ideas, beliefs and actions eventually also change. Reframing offers hope that even difficult situation can be beneficial to us in the long term and help to make us better, more empathetic persons.

The Reframing Technique

Some important principles to remember when using the reframing technique:

  1. We assign meaning to the events or situations that we face based on our own interpretation of them. The way each situation affects us is the way we choose to interpret it. For example, are you happy when you see a glass half full – because there’s that much for you to drink, or are you unhappy - because the glass is half empty and there is only that little for you to drink?
  2. Your underlying beliefs and assumptions influence the types of thoughts you have and how you ‘frame’ them. For example, if you begin a math exam that you prepared for wondering how terribly you will fail this time, it is probably because you believe that you will never succeed at math, no matter how hard you try.
  3. Your negative thoughts represent some deeper desire or hope that you have, but you need help with. When the thought “I’ll never achieve anything good in life” runs through your mind, you probably do want to achieve something in life but don’t know how to. Reframing that thought could sound like this: I really want to be a successful entrepreneur but I don’t know where to begin. I need to get some help with that.”

Now start!

Now it’s time for you to start reframing some of those pesky negative thoughts. Have you identified a negative thought? Okay, now replace it with a positive one. Keep it up, train your brain to perceive things differently and you’ll be well on your way to a happier, more productive life!


The text on this page, unless otherwise indicated, is owned by happiness coach (karen mcgibbon) who hereby asserts her copyright on the material. Permission must be granted by the author in writing prior to copy or republish this article in print or online. Thank you.

© karen mcgibbon


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      Yvette Stupart PhD 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Very nice, happiness coach, I constantly have to reframe my own thinking, as what I think affects how I feel and sometimes how I act. Thanks for sharing.