I am a firm believer in the power of our thoughts. I am also a firm believer that we in fact have control over these thoughts. We only have the ability to have a single thought at any given time. Furthermore, we have a choice each second of what those thoughts are. Throughout my own journey I have spent a lot of time and energy working on my ability to reframe my thought patterns. But what does that actually mean? I will be the first to tell you that it is one of the hardest things to do. It relies on a lot of discipline, and a lot of trial and error. Most importantly, with any changes in habits, it is important that we don’t get stuck in an all-or-none state. My favourite illustration of this is the idea around brushing your teeth…just because you miss one day of brushing doesn’t mean you give up brushing forever! Like any health change, be it around mindfulness, going to the gym, eating healthy etc it is important you don’t just give up after one day of reverting back to old habits. When it comes to reframing, it is about taking the time and energy to stop and assess the reoccurring thought and choose to see it differently. An example of this would be getting let go from your job. While initially it can seem catastrophic, it is important to take the time to stop and attempt to see the positive gains from that ending. Does it in fact allow you more freedom in your career? Are you able to make a physical move you were being held back from? Instead of focusing on the loss itself, why not try focusing on what gains could you experience from this loss? There is an old Chinese fable that I love for displaying this concept. In our current world we are constantly focusing on our experiences as either good or bad. This fable illustrates someone who is incredible at reframing, an example of avoiding the trap of good vs bad. It helps remind us not to be so attached emotionally to our experiences:
A Chinese farmer gets a horse, which soon runs away. A neighbor says, "That's bad news." The farmer replies, "Good news, bad news, who can say?"
The horse comes back the next day and brings 12 other horses with him.
The farmer gives on of the new horses to his son, who rides it, then is thrown and badly breaks his leg.
"So sorry for your bad news," says the concerned neighbor. "Good news, bad news, who can say?" the farmer replies.
In a week or so, the emperor's men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer's son is spared due to his injury.
Finally, I will a leave a thought with you from Viktor Frankl who was a master at reframing. He survived the dark depths of the Holocaust and yet was still able to find meaning through the experience. One of my favourite quotes of his states:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way...In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.”
If you would like to learn more about reframing or are in need of help with stress management please book in with Dr. Krista Hennigar. As always, this post is not designed to diagnose or treat you, but instead to give you something to think about. Please book a consult with a naturopathic physician prior to changing, starting, or stopping medications or protocols.
Frankl, V. (1945) Mans Search for Meaning. Beacon Press.
Theiss, E. (2009) Parable of a Chinese farmer: How an ancient story resonates in today's hard times. http://www.cleveland.com/living/index.ssf/2009/02/parable_of_a_chinese_farmer_ho.html