Cognitive restructuring is also known as cognitive reframing and it is a very helpful technique that helps people identify unpleasant moods, stress-inducing thoughts or any negative or distorted thinking caused by a negative experience. As such, a person can reframe their negative action or statement, and turn it into a more positive frame of mind.
By using this reframing technique you will be able to take a negative experience and shift it in a way that makes it easier for you to deal with your experience. The purpose of reframing is to help a person experience their actions, the impact of their beliefs, etc. from a different perspective (frame) and potentially be more resourceful or have more choice in how they react.
In general, we all have a different meaning for each experience that we have. We can view an experience as something negative or we can choose to put another frame or different perspective around it for a more beneficial outcome. To do this you need to take a negative action or statement and turn it into something positive. This is called a cognitive restructuring.
The goal of cognitive restructuring is to enable people to replace stress-inducing thought habits with more positive thinking habits that will help them deal with any difficult experience they may encounter.
Example of Negative Statements that Need Cognitive Restructuring
I am a failure!
I can’t do this!
This is too expense!
What happens if I fail!
What happens if I am not accepted.
We have all used these types of phrases especially when we are not sure of ourselves. Our outlook or our attempt to achieving our goals would be better if we take these negative words and reframe (express words differently) them to something more constructive. Take one moderately stressful situation.
Using the Reframing Cognitive Technique
Let’s take the previous negative statements and rewrite each of them in a positive way.
What Can I do to succeed?
With the help of others and finding the resources I need, I can succeed,
Using my resources wisely will allow me to reach my goal.
It’s all good. I am going to seek people and resources to help me to succeed.
I will find people who have similar interest as my own.
As you can see our statements or choice of words are more hopeful and positive. You will begin to train yourself to think in a more positive manner. In doing so, you will be in a better mood and enable yourself to tackle any difficult situation. Each situation troubling you can turn into possibilities. With this exercise, you can make what can be a bad situation better.
Cognitive Restructuring Steps
You can do some cognitive restructuring exercises to get you to change your negative thought habits into positive thoughts habits.
- Begin by taking one moderately stressful situation or something you are not sure about. Write it down on a piece of paper.
- My boss was rude to me.
- My significant other has left me.
- My child is failing with school.
- I sprained my ankle.
- I am feeling overwhelmed at work.
- Think about a positive emotion or experience you can use to change this negative experience into something positive that will give a happier ending.
- He is rude, but I am a better person and I will succeed.
- My significant other has left me but now I am open to meet someone new.
- My child is temporary failing because I will find the resources to help them excel.
- I sprained my ankle, but now I can get some rest.
- I am overwhelmed, but I am going to delegate some task and get the job done!
To further help you can envision positive experiences that you have had in your life.
- Imagine Laying on the beach enjoying the calmness and the sounds of the waves.
- Think of the time when someone helped you or showed you some kind gesture.
- Remember a Celebration, like a birthday or an anniversary that brought you joy.
How did you feel during these occasions? Happy, Content, grateful?
- Next, pick one thing that stressed you out and some experience that resulted in a positive emotion.
- Picture yourself in a movie and you are going through this negative experience. Go ahead and experience the thoughts, feelings, and emotions of that moment. Then Pause the movie for a moment and shift your attention to your breathing. Take deep breathes and start to relax. While you are doing this start to focus on that positive emotion or experience.
- Hold on to the image for another 3 breaths. Repeat again with the same image or choose another.
- After at least 3 consecutive deep breaths. Go back to the difficult situation and rewrite what the ending can be.
- Ask yourself,
- What can I do to have a happy ending?
- What action can I take to minimize stress in the future?
- What kind of an attitude can I have that will help enhance my physical mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing?
- Go over this new ending in your head. Notice how you are feeling about this ending.
This practice is helpful when your stress level has decreased. That will give a sense of hope and that there are better alternatives. Use this exercise in preparation for a difficult situation that is approaching. Anticipate what you might feel. Think about what attitude or motion you might use to promote healthier results or positive outcome.
Mastering the Exercise of Cognitive Restructuring
True mastering comes when you are aware of the stress. Aware of your emotional response and most importantly being aware of those emotions or actions that you will use to deal with the situation at hand. More effectively, clearly and confidently. The goal is to create a more positive and more desirable outcome. If you are having difficulty getting a therapist, guide or coach to help you to use this every day.