“We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives.” ~ B.J. Neblett
Our experiences can awaken an emotional response, whether positive or negative is largely dependent on the emotions triggered within us at that point of time. The memory of that experience stays with us, archived in our mind based on the label we give it and when you share this experience with others you tell the story of how it made you feel.
We are the sum total of our experiences and it is our experiences that mold us. What if you can redefine or change the negative memories associated with a particular event in your life? Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that helps identify and confront negative or irrational thoughts and view it from a different and positive perspective.
For example you’ve had a terrible break up and the memory associated with that relationship would probably be negative as well. When you tell yourself a different story, it changes your physiological response to that experience. In this case, when you shift your perspective about the relationship and tell yourself that it taught you a valuable lesson instead, you undergo a change within.
It’s a conscious shift in a person’s mental perspective that reinforces your power to reframe literally any thought you ever have into something more positive. Cognitive reframing is not only restricted to past experiences or memories, it can also be your belief systems that is ruining your present or coming in the way of achieving certain life goals.
How does cognitive reframing work?
1) Become aware of your thought patterns and reactions to them –
An important step before you shift your perspective. If you aren’t aware of the emotions triggered by certain memories, how can you go about changing them?
We aren’t talking about suppressing your negative emotions, but realizing them. When you think of a particular memory how does it make you feel. Now try interpreting it from a different perspective, try putting yourself in the other persons shoes or even gaining an overview perspective.
Try imagining how easy it is to snap when the going is tough, let it go, let it flow open up you heart to forgive and this will help you overcome a situation and increase your psychological well-being.
When you become aware of your thoughts, it becomes easier to take note of it and view it through ‘new eyes’, or at least try to.
2) Meditate to reduce negative self-talk –
Honestly I don’t need to say more about the effectiveness of meditation. Become an observer of your thoughts instead of getting caught up in them, let them pass by like a flowing river. Not getting stuck anywhere but finding a new way to float through this journey called life, will allow you to experience them without judgement or shame.
Sogyal Rinpoche mentioned in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, “We often wonder what to do about negativity or certain troubling emotions. In the spaciousness of meditation, you can view your thoughts and emotions with a totally unbiased attitude. When your attitude changes, then the whole atmosphere of your mind changes, even the very nature of your thoughts and emotions. When you become more agreeable, then they do; if you have no difficulty with them, they will have no difficulty with you either.”
Meditation doesn’t need to be boring, we have ways to meditate even without meditating. You could also have a focused meditation on curbing the negative self talk. If you like experimenting we have the different methods of meditating and don’t forget chanting does wonders as well.
3) Replace your thoughts with more positive ones –
It is difficult to overcome a painful past, but wallowing in it for long is not going to lead you any where. Transform your negative self-talk, retell the story in your head so you begin to believe in it.
Research has shown that our memory changes each time they are recalled, so the story is never exactly the way it happened. So why not rewrite it the way we want?
Look for the ‘gift’ in each situation, and see how your stress levels reduce. Negative thoughts and emotions present an opportunity to cultivate mindfulness. See them in a way that still fits the facts of your situation, but that is less negative and more optimistic. This is how you create you reality, why not make it a better one for yourself. When you become happier you automatically spread the joy around.