Strategies for Reframing Negative Thoughts

Strategies for Reframing Negative Thoughts

strategies for reframing negative thoughts
strategies for reframing negative thoughts

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by negative thoughts, you’re not alone. Many people’s psychological and emotional well-being has suffered during the coronavirus pandemic.

In December 2021, 3 in 10 Americans surveyed by the National Center for Health Statistics reported symptoms of anxiety or depression. That figure was an increase from 1 in 10 in December 2019.

Negative thinking can hinder your ability to function in everyday life when it becomes habitual. That’s why taking steps to reframe your thoughts is vital to improving your health and happiness.

This blog will introduce you to some of the most effective strategies for reframing negative thoughts into positive thinking.

If you are in crisis, get immediate help:


What is Negative Thinking?

Negative thinking involves having thoughts “characterized by negative perceptions, expectations and attributions” about yourself, other people or the world around you.

Anyone can experience negative thinking, especially during stressful times. Even the most optimistic people have negative thoughts.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a major effect on our lives—from isolating from loved ones to balancing work and child care. As a result, you may be facing more stress and negative thoughts than usual.

Over time, habitual negative thinking can lead to adverse emotions and health outcomes. It is linked to anxiety, depression and many other mental health disorders.

Fortunately, you can take steps to reframe your negative thoughts—both independently and with the help of a mental health professional.

Reframing negative thoughts into positive thinking has numerous health benefits. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can:

  • Increase your lifespan.
  • Lower your risk of depression.
  • Improve your cardiovascular health.
  • Provide better coping skills during stressful times.

Read more about coping with isolation.

how to reframe negative thoughts

How to Reframe Negative Thoughts?

The process of reframing negative thoughts takes time. But with practice, you can develop a more positive outlook on challenging situations in your life.

Step #1: Identify Your Negative Thinking

When negative thinking persists, you may not be aware of it. So reframing negative thoughts starts with learning how to recognize them.

There are several types of negative thinking, including:

  • Filtering: Focusing exclusively on the negative parts of a situation and disregarding the positive.
  • Personalizing: Seeing yourself as the sole cause of negative events.
  • Catastrophizing: Automatically anticipating the worst outcome.
  • Polarizing: Viewing circumstances as good or bad with no middle ground.

Keep these forms of negative thinking in mind as you go about your day. When you have a negative thought, consider how it fits in these categories.

Becoming more aware of negative thinking will help you start to reframe your thoughts.

Step #2: Determine the Thoughts to Reframe

The next step in reframing negative thoughts is to decide which negative thoughts you want to change. 

Think about the area of your life that attracts the most negative thinking. Is it your job? A relationship?

Focus on reframing negative thoughts one area at a time. This approach can make your shift to positive thinking more comfortable and effective.

Step #3: Reframe Your Thoughts

There are many techniques for reframing negative thoughts into positive thinking.

Two of the most effective are positive reframing and examining the evidence. These can help shift your interpretation of a negative situation and your feelings about it.

Positive Reframing

Positive reframing means finding the upside in a difficult situation. Think about a challenging time in your life, and then ask yourself about a benefit or lesson learned from the experience.

For example, imagine that you miss a deadline at work. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts about yourself, you find the upside of the situation.

Perhaps the miss allows you to speak with your manager about your workload. Or maybe you use the situation to clarify with your manager about how to communicate your progress.

By finding the benefits of this challenging scenario, you can use it as a learning opportunity rather than a reason to question your self-worth.

Examining the Evidence

Examining the evidence is another way to reframe your thoughts into positive thinking. This technique involves analyzing “the evidence for your interpretation of a situation.”

Consider a possible scenario that you think negatively about. Now ask yourself these questions:

  • How likely is it that the negative scenario will happen?
  • How often has the negative scenario occurred in the past?
  • What is the worst possible outcome of the negative scenario?
  • How likely is the worst possible outcome likely to happen? Can you handle it if it does?

Your answers to these questions can help you face challenges with more balanced thinking.

Like any skill, reframing negative thoughts takes practice. When you notice a negative thought, use these strategies to reframe it and make positive thinking a habit.

Check out SBU's Online Master's in Mental Health Counseling

clinical mental health counseling

How Do Clinical Mental Health Counselors Help With Reframing Negative Thoughts?

Another way to reframe your thoughts is to work with a licensed clinical mental health counselor (CMHC). CMHCs evaluate and treat mental, behavioral and emotional problems and disorders in individuals, families and groups.

The qualifications of licensed CMHCs include:

  • A minimum of a master’s degree in counseling from an accredited college or university.
  • Completion of at least 3,000 hours of post master’s degree supervised clinical experience.
  • Passage of the national licensed professional counselor exam.
  • Adherence to a code of ethics and recognized standards of practice.

You can find a CMHC near you using Psychology Today’s online directory.

A CMHC can help you with reframing negative thoughts through various types of psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is among the most effective.


What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that guides people to think in healthier ways. It’s ideal for people with mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, and anyone who wants to think more positively during stressful times.

CBT explores the relationships between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It will uncover your thought patterns and their links to any self-destructive behaviors or beliefs.

Using CBT to become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking allows you to view and respond to challenging situations more effectively.

Another benefit of CBT is that it can help reframe your thoughts quickly. CBT is goal-oriented and, therefore, usually requires fewer sessions than other types of therapy.

How CBT Works

A licensed CMHC can guide you through CBT for reframing negative thoughts. They will tailor their approach to your specific situation.

No matter your goals, you will be encouraged to talk about your thoughts and feelings during sessions with your CMHC. A CMHC may also assign outside activities, reading or other practices to support your therapy sessions.

Generally, CBT consists of four steps. You will:

  1. Identify the situation troubling you, such as having recurrent negative thoughts. Your therapist will ask you about your concerns and symptoms.
  2. Gain a deeper understanding of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs. You will explore the different ways you respond to certain challenges in your life.
  3. Identify problematic thinking patterns. In addition to talking with your therapist, you may be asked to keep a journal of your troubling thoughts.
  4. Reshape your negative or inaccurate thinking. Your therapist will help you change your perceptions and habits to support more positive thinking.

CBT is generally a short-term therapy. But it will still take time to reframe your thoughts positively. If you are open with your CMHC, follow their guidance and stick to your treatment plan, you can make lasting improvements to your way of thinking.


Prepare To Help Those Struggling With Mental Health Issues

It’s normal to experience negative thinking. The coronavirus pandemic and its lasting effects may be one of the most stressful situations you have ever faced. Fortunately, the strategies shared in this blog can help reframe your thoughts and improve your overall well-being.

The pandemic’s toll on mental health has created an enormous need for mental health professionals. If you’re passionate about helping people, you can make a meaningful difference by becoming a licensed CMHC.

St. Bonaventure University offers a CACREP-accredited online Master of Science in Education – Clinical Mental Health Counseling that provides a supportive pathway to licensure. The program is delivered 100% online in a dynamic virtual environment, combining flexibility, quality and value. Through engaging coursework and in-field practice understand the specific needs of communities and populations, and gain strategies to improve their outcomes through a variety of counseling practices, including crisis counseling, addiction counseling, research methods and more.

As a student in St. Bonaventure’s online MSED Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, you will:

  • Prepare to meet all the requirements of a licensed professional counselor. At St. Bonaventure, 95% of program graduates pass the licensed professional counselor exam.
  • Receive dedicated support from enrollment through graduation. You will get guidance and assistance from your student support advisor, and internship placement coordinator who will find sites in your local area.
  • Embark on an educational path that combines quality and affordability. St. Bonaventure is ranked as a Top 5 Best Value School by the U.S. News & World Report.

Are you ready to start your career helping those struggling with mental health issues?

Learn about SBU's Online Master's in Mental Health Counseling