8 phrases to help reframe a negative mindset

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Are you ever around someone with such a negative mindset that just makes you want to run escape immediately? That’s the environment that negative thinking creates— but you can’t run outside or excuse yourself— because it’s in your own head. That’s okay! That can be even better.

“Negative thinking is all about distortion. Exaggerating the bad, minimizing the good,” explains Tamar Chansky, Ph.D. and founder of Children’s and Adult Center for OCD and Anxiety. Unfortunately, for most people, negative thinking is like a reflex, we don’t have to try hard to think negatively — our wiring makes that come naturally, but there are words and phrases to help reframe our internal narrative and maintain a more positive overall outlook.

We spoke to career and life coaches, psychologists and social workers to get their best words and phrases to help reframe a negative mindset in a hurry. Try writing these down or saying them out loud the next time you need to pull yourself out of a negative spiral.

“Some…”

Dr. Chansky recommends using the word ‘some’ to counter all or none thinking. “Some things went well, some didn’t” or “some people were nice to me today, some weren’t.” This way, no matter what went wrong, your internal dialogue will begin to recognize that it wasn’t really all that bad.

“…right now”

Everything is wrong, everything is ruined, I can’t be a good parent, colleague, student…” fill in the blank… Basically, when we are in negative thinking mode it feels like everything is wrong, and we may say — my life sucks. According to Dr. Chansky, the first thing to do to counteract this feeling is to say, “I’m having that ‘my life sucks’ feeling’”. What that does is it distinguishes between feelings and facts. Add a “right now” to the end of that sentence and it reinforces even more that this is temporary, a fleeting feeling, versus a permanent fact of life.

“What is the worst that can happen?”

“Posing this question allows an individual to verbalize their fears,” explains Janika Joyner, LCSW, CCTP. Typically the worst that could happen would be death, going to jail or hurting someone or themselves. “My clients present to be afraid of failure and/or ‘messing up.’ When asked this question they are able to step back and identify what they are truly afraid of and find their strengths to combat that fear.”

“Am I disqualifying the positive?”

“One common thinking error that I address in therapy is disqualifying the positive,” explains Joyner. An example of this would be a person passing a quiz but still thinking to themselves, “I’m probably going to fail the class anyway.” This type of thinking is challenged and reframed by identifying the positives and celebrating the person’s strengths, no matter how small. 

“Would others respond the same way to this situation?”

“Some individuals feel that their experiences are isolated and that they are the only people dealing with them,” Joyner adds, “I assist my clients with understanding that they are not alone and share experiences of others to assist them with identifying alternatives.”

“This is how it is right now.”

“When it comes to reframing a negative mindset, the phrase that works for me and the clients I work with is ‘This is how it is right now.’” explains Diana Morris, clarity coach. This serves as a reminder that the issues and difficulties happening in the moment are just that — in the moment — and there is every possibility that it will pass and change, either with new understandings or new possibilities.

“I am…”

There’s an undeniable power in positive affirmations, especially when trying to reframe your thinking and shake off a negative mindset. “Remember the two strongest words in the human language are the two words that follow ‘I am…’” says Brad Blazar, founder of The of Art Beliefology™, “Learn to use positive words like healthy, awesome, happy and you will reframe your mindset. Using negative words and just the opposite will occur!”

“What is a better-feeling thought or story I can adopt?”

“Sometimes people use affirmations to leap from a negative mindset to a positive one,” adds Paula Onysko, money and business coach, “For example, they may currently feel ‘I hate my body’ whereas the positive opposite is ‘I love my body.’”  However, the subconscious mind may not be able to make the leap from hate to love instantly, so you are better off creating an interim mindset that your subconscious mind can embrace, for example, ‘I am open to loving parts of my body’ or ‘I am willing to see the beauty in everything, including parts of myself.’

The goal is to always move to a better-feeling thought, even if it’s only a slight step forward. Behind the scenes, you are moving mountains.