Day 11: Learn To Reframe Experiences

For an introduction to this section on stress management, check out Day 9. For the previous post about monitoring your self-talk, check out Day 10.

Two people are riding next to each other on the same roller coaster.

The first person is screaming and clutching the armrest in a vice grip, holding on for dear life. The second person has their arms up, totally exhilarated and thoroughly enjoying the wild ride.

Same experience, different perception.

All events in our life are witnessed by ourselves through a particular frame. Within this frame lies the meaning of the event.

Therefore, the frames that we use to experience our lives through hold immense importance.

To “reframe” an event is to change the way you perceive it by changing your understanding of the event in some way.

When something happens to you, you have a response (thought, emotion, etc.), and this response helps you determine the meaning of the event. But if you thought about the event in a different way, you would give it a different meaning.

Because stress is, ultimately, just the way you view a particular thing, reframing gives us a clear way to reduce stress.

If you view a certain event in a negative way such that it causes you stress, you can reframe that experience such that it has a positive or neutral effect rather than a negative one. Check out that link for a much more in depth look at how to use the reframing technique in your life.

Today, I want you to write down five things that happened in the past week that stressed you out.

For each of them, write down what it is about the situation that caused you to be stressed out.

Lastly, write out a different interpretation of the event such that it is no longer stressful.

So, for example, if you were stuck in traffic for an extra half hour this morning, you probably experienced some stress related to the wasted time.

But if instead of thinking about it as wasted time, you reframe it as having extra time to listen to the awesome album that was in your CD player (say, Blue Sky Noise by Circa Survive), then suddenly the traffic is no longer as stressful.

After the fact, a reframe like the above one probably will not make you suddenly feel good about the event.

The point is to practice reframing such that it becomes a standard response to stressful events.

It may take some creativity to come up with good reframes, but it is worth investing the little bit of extra time to come up with a positive interpretation.

Another great reframe is that of the general in a losing battle consoling his distressed troops by saying “We’re not retreating; we are advancing in a different direction.”

In this case, the reframe is done in real time, which is the goal of learning how to reframe experiences. When you are able to quickly reinterpret the events in your life into something more positive as the events occur, you will be nearly impervious to stress.

Therefore, you should make it a point to get in the habit of reframing negative experiences as often as you can.

For further reading on reframing, go here.

I’ve also written about how to reframe the experience of being rejected.

Move on to Day 12: Accept Yourself.

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  1. […] feelings. What I am saying is that we are the ones who control our own thoughts, and we are free to interpret a situation any way we want. I’m sure if Buddha were trapped in a cage, he would still feel […]

  2. […] Next, the concept of “reframing” will be discussed. […]

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