Positive Reframing: Seeing Life from a New Perspective

While we can't always change what happens to us, we can choose how we interpret and respond to different situations. By reformulating our way of thinking, we can find a certain balance, which will allow us to better cope with adversity.
Positive Reframing: Seeing Life from a New Perspective
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

Sometimes, being able to see things from a different perspective can improve our ability to handle difficult situations. Positive reframing is just one way to do this. By rethinking certain aspects of our lives, we can reduce the amount of confusion, discomfort, and tension we feel on a daily basis. This is a really useful technique that anyone can use.

However, it’s important to recognize that applying this technique in real life is often easier than it sounds. People are often stubborn in how they interpret the world and the way they assess different situations, circumstances, and relationships. For instance, when confronted with a colleague who’s always in a bad mood, we instantly label them as toxic. If someone’s obsessed with order, we say they’re controlling.

We rarely stop to consider that that “toxic” colleague might be having a difficult time and may be suffering in silence, or that a person obsessed with order may have a brilliant mind that we could learn a lot from. Our reality has many faces, and only focusing on the negative generally does more harm than good.

Being able to put things in perspective, and opening our eyes to other, kinder points of view can significantly improve our quality of life.

A woman sitting on a pier.

What’s positive reframing?

Positive reframing is a technique that’s widely used in therapy. It aims to help people see things differently, and change the meanings we attribute to certain situations or events. The idea is to help us understand that our perspective on difficult situations acts as a filter, blurring everything, and altering our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Let’s take a look at an example. Maybe you have a prominent nose, or maybe you’re shorter or thinner than others. Beyond simply working on your self-esteem or learning to accept yourself, you must be able to find a way to see each situation in a more positive light. Instead of thinking that everyone will stare at you if you go to a party, you need to gain some perspective and focus on something different: having fun, accepting that everyone has their own quirks, and that that’s what makes us unique.

I mean, are you really going to avoid social events over something so superficial? Of course not. Seeing life through this kind of mental framework isn’t only limiting but will also stop you from being happy. It’s also important to recognize that many of us go through these same mental processes. Thinking that there’s only one perspective and one unique way of seeing things is very human.

Moving from a problem-oriented to a goal-oriented mentality

In order to reframe things in a more positive light, you need to follow a very specific process, moving away from negativity and towards a more open, constructive, and hopeful mindset. To help you understand this better, let’s take a look at an example. We’re going to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who has just received a very specific diagnosis: multiple sclerosis.

Their immediate reaction is that their life is over. They’ll never work again, and their future is all but over.

  • From a problem-oriented mindset, the situation is as follows: the person accepts that this is a chronic, degenerative disease. All is lost, and there’s no other option but to accept that this is the end.
  • Positive reframing is an important part of the therapeutic process. Here, we can use a goal-oriented mindset to help us see the other options available to us. Instead of focusing on the problem itself, we can focus on a specific goal. This gives us hope and a way to break out of negative thought patterns.
  • In this case, the focus should be on understanding the disease and learning what options are available to help slow its progression and maintain a good quality of life.
Seeing life from a new perspective.

Positive reframing isn’t the same as excessive optimism – it means rethinking experiences in order to find solutions

Positive reframing is part of the positive psychology movement Martin Seligman started in the 90s. It’s important to understand that this technique isn’t about always seeing the bright side of life. It means that, within the context and reality of each individual person, it’s possible to consider different ways to handle a situation and find ways to improve our lives.

This, in turn, means understanding that we can’t always change what happens to us. If you’ve lost your job, you’ve lost your job. If you’ve recently received a serious diagnosis, there’s nothing you can do to change that. However, positive reframing can help you to consider different approaches and find new ways to cope with challenging situations.

It aims to undermine negative, defeatist mindsets, encouraging you to turn your sights towards other possibilities and perspectives. This, in turn, will give you a renewed sense of motivation, and help you feel better prepared to handle difficult circumstances. It’s a technique that can help you to find emotional calm, mental clarity, and allow you to redefine the meanings you attribute to different situations.

In conclusion, this technique helps us to redefine and restructure our thought processes. It’s a life tool that each of us can adapt and make our own, allowing us to move forward and make it through any difficult days that lie ahead. If it isn’t something you feel you can master on your own, you can always consult with a specialist.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.