reframingWe’ve all become quite aware of the amygdala in recent years – how it is always scanning for negative threats, routinely kick-starting an avalanche of fight-flight-or-freeze thoughts in our brains.  The threat response is no longer limited to life-threatening possibilities as was the amygdala’s original purpose. We now can perceive advice as a status or image threat. If goals or expectations are too lofty we can become overwhelmed with fight-flight-freeze thoughts. Someone’s body language can even set off a threat response. It’s obvious that we’ve done a fabulous job of evolving the amygdala to scan for negative threats.

The problem lies in the fact that there is no mechanism in the brain with a job to scan for positive possibilities. There is absolutely no natural mechanism in our brain that automatically counters the amygdala. The problem becomes worse given that ‘neurons that fire together wire together.’ In other words, the more we practice negativity the more hard-wired our brains become for negativity. It becomes a natural tendency.

So, we have to be proactive and consciously employ techniques to reprogram our brains toward positive thoughts to create a positive mind. Why – because we can – because positivity is a choice, and because if left unchecked the brain can entrench some very negative go-to auto-programs.

We all want a better life with true authentic happiness. ‘Reframing’ is an excellent tool for building a basis for this. There are all sorts of ways to perceive our world. Reframing techniques are a powerful way to train the brain to look for the positive in all situations. At first this concept may seem foreign. You may think “Well, I see mostly negative in the world, because the world is filled with mostly negative.” Actually, the world contains all possibilities, all the time. It contains an overwhelming abundance of joy, sweetness, beauty and love – not to mention learning and growing opportunities. It’s easy to miss though with an amygdala-rampant mind, as the amygdala-trained mind can have us looking constantly and consistently for the negative.

Think of reframing in the same light as what a photographer does.  He frames his shots. He may be shooting at a huge garbage dump. But, he can zoom in on the beautiful patch of dandelions. Or, he can point the camera up at the plane cruising across a color-streaked, sunset sky. He can set his frame on the dog tenderly nudging its newborn pup to take its first steps. You get it! So here are two reframing methods with documented success in reprogramming the mind for positivity:

1.) Benefit Finding. Think of benefit finding as silver-lining thinking as a habitual practice. There are two ways to employ this technique. One, you look for all the positives in something that has happened. Two, you look for benefits of events about to happen. So, for example, let’s say you just got laid off. As you feel the bad vibes and see yourself going down a ‘Why me?’ path, consciously start looking for the benefits. You might think, “Well, I finally get to go back to school and get the degree in what I would really rather do,” or, “My stress levels are going to go way down now that I’m not working there,” or “I’ve really been ready for a change. This just put me on the path to doing it even sooner.”

The second thing is to train yourself to look for the benefits of upcoming events. Maybe, as you approach the mall, you see that the parking lot is crammed with cars. As you notice yourself thinking “Geez, this is going to be a freakin’ zoo,” catch yourself and consciously reach for the positive thoughts of “Wow, I bet I’ll run into several people I know here today,” or “Gosh, maybe there are some sales going on that I didn’t know about.” Make it a game and see how many positive benefits you can form to counter the original negative thought.

2.) The Robinson Crusoe Reframing Method. I’ve heard neurologists say that you can’t help what thoughts come into your head, but you can control what you do next. This Robinson Crusoe method is a very effective method for reframing after a negative thought or event. We never want to analyze a negative thought as it only cements it. In fact they are finding that going back and dwelling on childhood traumas only entrench the negative events. Action in a new and positive direction is a habit that engrains new healthier patterns in the brain.

So, the way this method works is when you notice a negative thought pop in, you follow it with a ‘but’ and consciously fill in a positive after it. “Oh geez, the traffic just stopped and the highway is now like a parking lot,” could then be followed with “But, I’ve been wanting to take things slower – this will give me some good quality time alone with my thoughts,”  or “But, I’ve been hankering for some frozen yogurt and this is going to be my excellent excuse to take the next exit and find some,” or “I’ve been wanting to become more patient and this is a fantastic opportunity to breathe, listen to the radio and practice surrendering to ‘what is’.”  You can also do this on paper. Taking the earlier example of being let go from your job, you can list a minus, then on the other side of the paper put “but” and list a positive. Go down the sheet and see how many you can do. The “but” followed by the positive deletes or minimizes the negative.  This method is an excellent method for retraining your brain to look for the positives in your life.

Put it to Practice

It’s all well and good to know about these practices. But, if you know them and don’t use them,they won’t do you any good what so ever. And, if you don’t use it you lose it. So, practice up! Practice makes perfect and in this case we’re talking a perfectly positive mind and positive life. Blessings!
Sandra M Bell
Author of “Lunchtime Joy Magnet” & personal coach