15 Ways Reframing Your Thoughts Can Change Your Life

Updated: Mar. 01, 2021

Our mind is the mighty force behind just about everything in our lives: Our thoughts can either hold us back or propel us forward. Try these strategies to break unproductive thinking patterns, overhaul the way you talk to yourself, and let the world meet the new you.

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Before thought: I’m always going to struggle financially

After thought: Financial struggles are hard, but I can make one choice today to build up my nest egg. Sarah Newcomb, a Morningstar behavioral economist and author of a study titled When More Is Less: Rethinking Financial Health found that self-assuredness has an impact on financial progress, as reported in TIME. Newcomb discovered that people she surveyed who agreed with the statement, “I create my own financial destiny,” were more likely to have positive associations with their financial life than those who expressed powerlessness when it comes to saving, investing, and earning more. Here are some premier habits from money saving experts to go along with your newfound positive thinking.


Before thought: My to-do list is so long that I’ll never get anything done

After thought: If I do one thing at a time, I’ll surprise myself by how much I accomplish. Shooting for the moon when it comes to getting things done? Some of the greatest thinkers in the world had this productivity trick in common.


Before thought: I won’t ever get over my ex

After thought: I will heal and find the right relationship for me. Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University who has been described as “the mother of mindfulness,” explains that we can choose our thoughts. She says, “People are often stressed about losing romantic relationships, but relationships require two people and if both of the people aren’t in it, you might prosper by letting that relationship end.” Are you in a partnership that should end? Here are subtle signs of a toxic relationship.


Before thought: I’m worried about tomorrow

After thought: What can I focus on in the next 10 minutes? “It’s best to assume you’ll be fine and get on with business. People need to recognize that life only consists of moments,” Langer says. Since this moment is all we have, we’ll take her word for it. Learn how this woman found happiness through the power of positive thinking.

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Before thought: People always let me down

After thought: Disappointments are bound to happen sometimes. When they do, I choose how to react. Since disappointments happen in everyone’s life, don’t let unfulfilled expectations stress you out. Here, are some proven 5-second strategies for shutting down stress.


Before thought: My idea is stupid

After thought: Creativity makes me feel vulnerable, but I believe in my idea and while I’m open to feedback, I refuse to criticize myself. Voicing suggestions at work and in our personal lives can be scary. We might want to propose new date ideas to our partner or business plans to our boss, but we can fear how we’re going to be perceived. The key is to acknowledge our fears but still move forward and accept what comes.


Before thought: I’m not good enough at what I do

After thought: I have strengths and weakness, and I get better every day. It might sound like a trendy self-help phase, but it’s true: self-compassion is good for our health. To keep thoughts about self-worth or abilities in context remember that self-confidence can be developed, that you can’t control anyone but yourself, and even if your higher-ups don’t approve of you, you can even survive a bad review.


Before thought: If I move somewhere new I’ll regret it

After thought: There’s no way I can know the outcome of a move. Langer says, “You’re in charge of how you see the world.” Reframing our thoughts in the context of a life transition is somewhat of an intellectual game. We have to ask yourselves how else can a situation be viewed beside how we are currently viewing it? Maybe a move will bring new relationships or career opportunities. Langer says, “People tend to conflate and confuse prediction and postdiction.” The truth is that predictions are largely an illusion, and we don’t really know how things will play out. Two ways to counteract this thinking is to generate five potential positive outcomes for any given event and also evaluate where you may have predicted wrong in the past and use that information as leverage for the present. Thinking about moving? Ask these questions first.

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Before thought: I’m always the one who has to say I’m sorry

After thought: I’m a compassionate person. Positive thinking isn’t just about looking on the bright side—it’s about seeing yourself and events in more nuanced, layered ways that leave space for helpful conclusions. Instead of self-pity, you can usually find a reason to feel good about who you are.


Before thought: Getting older sucks

After thought: The older I get, the wiser I become. Why get down about aging? It’s part of life. Instead of resisting age, embrace it. Become a “super ager” with these 10 secrets.

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Before thought: I should know how to be in a loving relationship by now

After thought: Relationships take constant work. Watch out for what psychologists call “cognitive distortions,” ways of thinking that should be refuted in order to grow healthier thought patterns. Many times the word “should” indicates a black-or-white expectation that may or may not be reasonable given your situation. Remember to give yourself grace and time to work things out. If we don’t monitor our thoughts, negative mindsets can take a toll on our body’s physical health.


Before thought: The world is falling apart

After thought: With all the problems in the world, I get to figure out what part I will play in the solutions. Caroline Leaf, MD, wrote in her book Who Switched Off My Brain, “Frame your world with your words.” While it’s totally OK to feel the pain of the news and engage with global events, it’s probably not the best idea to bemoan the state of the world all the time. One way to counteract widespread issues is to volunteer, give back, perform random acts of kindness. Talking about how we’re taking action on issues that matter to us can help create a better world. Start with these creative volunteer opportunities.

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Before thought: I’m such a mess

After thought: Messy people are known to be creative. It’s easy to ascribe pessimistic associations what is commonly considered a negative trait such as being “messy.” Generally, though there is a flip side to most traits. For example, people who are called impulsive are known to also be flexible. In this case, someone with a messy room might be more creative than someone who keeps things neat (here are other benefits of being messy). Thanks, science, for always pointing out the good in us.

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Before thought: I always make the wrong choices

After thought: There are positive and negative aspects to every decision I make. Take a second to remember good decisions from your past. If you’re having trouble, ask a friend for help. There are generally good aspects to most situations. Can you name a few? It always helps to examine your thinking and not immediately accept an unhelpful belief. Langer puts it simply, “Outcomes are in our heads.”

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Before thought: I felt so rejected when I didn’t get the job

After thought: The next position I interview for will be a better fit. Langer shares that negative outcomes exist mostly in our minds. It’s our thoughts that attach meaning to a situation and we choose our thoughts. She says, “By framing circumstances in certain ways gives rise to more positive feelings. Over time we can gravitate toward positive understanding.” Looking to train your brain to think on the bright side? Here’s how to develop a positive attitude.