Reframing is a psychological technique used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Also known as cognitive restructuring, it allows you to reprogram your brain, changing your pattern of negative thinking — and the way you feel about certain situations, people, places, and things (including yourself).
This is important because, as noted above, your thoughts end up becoming your actions. And negative thoughts very often turn into self-destructive actions. “I’ll never be able to stick to the Primal Blueprint” quickly spirals into you speeding through a Krispy Kreme drive-thru for a dozen maple bars. Negative self-talk can cause a lot of damage.
It’s all in the way you talk to yourself.
But you don’t have to do a complete 180 right out of the gates. Turning “I want to eat healthier, but I don’t know where to start” into “I want to eat healthier and I don’t know where to start” is a great first step. Changing the but to and allows you to acknowledge your experience and create room for opportunity.
Our brains are often hardwired to see the negative side of things, but choosing whether or not to believe those thoughts is always up to you. It’s entirely under your control to reframe those negative, nagging thoughts into empowering ones. Here’s a snapshot of how to do it, followed by a deeper dive down below.
Here’s a snapshot of 7 ways to change negative self-talk
1. Catch yourself in the act
There’s a good chance you’re not even aware that you’re using negative self-talk, because you’re so used to doing it — it just feels normal! Building an awareness of your self-talk and acknowledging the fact that you’re sending yourself a negative message is the first step toward changing it. Track your negative thoughts for a week, writing down every time you say something mean to yourself.
2. Name your inner critic
This is designed to help separate yourself from your negative thoughts. And if you’re up for it, give it a silly voice too and say the mean thought out loud. Doing this interrupts the pattern, takes away your inner critic’s power, and creates space between you and the self-sabotaging message. When you give your inner critic a name, choose something lighthearted that reminds you not to take it seriously.
3. Challenge your inner critic
Look for evidence that this mean thought isn’t true. Do you always stress eat? Or feel defeated? Or skip workouts? The answer is probably no. I’m sure there’s been at least one time in your life that you made a choice that benefited your health. Think of the positive experiences you’ve had instead of dwelling on the not-so-positive ones.
4. Go from negative to neutral
As far as positivity goes, it doesn’t have to be all rainbows and puppies right away. However, starting to move from negative thoughts to neutral ones is a good start. Instead of “it’s disgusting how out of shape I am,” you could say “I get tired easily during my workouts right now.” It’s just a neutral awareness. No negativity. No mean inner critic.
5. Think like a friend
You’d never talk to a friend or family member the way you talk to yourself. Well, at least I hope you wouldn’t. Imagine someone close to you is in the situation that you’re currently in. What kind of words or emotions would you use to console them? Or motivate them? When you take yourself out of the situation, it’s easier to see things from a positive viewpoint.
6. Be willing to be imperfect
As a recovering perfectionist, I can tell you first-hand that this is key to changing your self-talk. We’re humans — and while we are miraculous creatures, we’re far from perfect. Having the ability to accept your imperfections allows you to look for what you can learn from your efforts. Plus, it helps you stay on track with your goals because you’re not fussing over whether or not every little detail is on point.
7. Break out a gratitude journal
Research that having a gratitude practice can help you see things from a glass-half-full perspective rather than half empty. I started incorporating a gratitude practice into my morning routine a few months ago and it’s a game-changer. To help redirect your negative patterns and begin seeing things with a positive outlook, try writing down three to five things that you’re grateful for every day.
I don’t care how much proof you have that you always get it wrong, or that you couldn’t lose fat if your life depended on it. You’re a work in progress. It takes time and regular practice to unlearn years or maybe even decades of negative self-talk and start seeing (and believing) things from a positive point of view.
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