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What is the silver lining of your commute? The power of reframing

Picture this – it’s a snow day. The adults are frantically trying to figure out how to get around town in the slippery conditions, while the little one excitedly grabs her sled and gets ready to play outside. Different ways of looking at the same situation. An environmental inconvenience reframed as an opportunity for fun. Life is full of stressful events we wish we could do without. But wishing we did not need to deal with the stress, does not change it. It only makes you feel less satisfied and unhappy. What if you knew of a way to take those same events and make them less bad? In fact, what if you could find joy them?  Just like the child in the above example? You don’t think this is possible? It is. And it has a name.

It’s called Reframing.

In fact, it is a well researched skill. This is the abridged version of how you do it: You consciously make a point of looking at difficult situations in a different way. By intentionally picking a perspective which serves you better than your current one. And in the process, you train your brain to go from resisting the negative to embracing the positive. It is a way of circumventing the negative interpretations our brains are wired to default to. If this sounds too good to be true, its not.  Keep reading.  

Reframing a less than ideal situation into a more positive one can totally change the way you experience your life.

Linda & Charlie Bloom, from their study on Psychology Today, “Reframing: The transformative power of suffering,” define reframing like this: “Reframing requires seeing something in a new way, in a context that allows us to recognize and appreciate positive aspects of our situation. Reframing helps us to use whatever life hands us as opportunities to be taken advantage of, rather than problems to be avoided. Breakdowns, no matter from what source, illness, accident, and losses are transformed into challenges and new possibilities to experience life more fully and to become a more whole human being.”  

And it’s simple to do. It just takes two steps.

First, catch yourself when you interpret something in a negative way which is burdening you. In other words, notice what is happening. Second, once you notice it, challenge yourself to find a number of different ways to be with the situation which would make it better for you. Third, pick one (or more) of those more positive interpretations and use it as your reference going forward.  In other words, live your life from that perspective instead.

Ready to try it? Let’s look at a common frustrater in many peoples’ lives – a long, arduous commute.

Let’s look at this example as a case study. Most of us can relate to the frustrations of getting to and from work, either in a car or using public transit.   As I share this example of mine, I recommend you think of one example out of your life to use as a practice scenario. I used to have a long drive to and from work everyday. The traffic was horrendous. My anxiety and irritability levels were high by the time I arrived at work. And in turn, once I was home with my family at the end of the day. Needless to say, this did not serve me.  It kept me from living the life I wanted for myself. After doing this for quite a while (longer than I care to admit), I decided something had to give. Either I was going to work somewhere else, or I needed to change my relationship with the commute. I chose the later.

Looking to reframe a frustratingly long commute into a valuable way to spend your time?

But how was I going to see my commute as a good thing? I needed to change my perspective on it. My existing thoughts were:
  • The commute wasted time I did not have.
  • I was wearing my car down.
  • I spend too much on gas.
  • I was polluting the planet.
How could I turn this around? All of these were so obviously bad. And this is why it is so hard to reframe. Our existing perspective, or the way we see our reality, feels so locked in, we can’t even fathom that there are other ways of looking at it. We feel we have no choice. Reframing is all about getting your choice back. You can choose how you want to look at something. And if you can choose, then why not choose a perspective which benefits you? Back to my case study, I decided to look for the opportunity behind my long commute.  I did come up with this overnight, but this is how I did end up reframing it:
  • I could use the time in a more constructive way by listening to podcasts to learn more about what interested me. This was really helpful. I learned so much while I was in my car, that even a bad traffic jam did not phase me anymore. It was more time for me to hear the next chapter on my audio book.
  • Calling friends and family during my drive using a Bluetooth car phone device. I used my drive to regularly keep in touch with important people in my life. For example, to check in with my mom. Or to have a (toddler-free) conversation with my spouse about routine household related things we did not want to use our valuable family time together to discuss.
  • I could ditch the car all together and ride my bike to work. Biking to work too about the same amount of time, except it made it easier to fit a workout into my day.
  • I could enjoy not talking or thinking about stuff and see my car as a “mobile thought spa.” I put on relaxing music, took deep breaths and enjoyed having some quiet time just to myself.
When you reframe, you don’t change the situation itself, but rather, you change how you experience it. None of the above alternatives made my commute go away. I still had to do it. But the way I was with it changed.  And this impacted my experience of the rest of the day, week and months in a positive way. Now it’s your turn. What do you want to reframe? Pick an easy example for your first attempt. If it is not your commute you want to reframe, what is it? Go ahead, try the 3 easy steps above and see where you land. Are you really keen on learning how to train your brain to break old patterns? Then contact me by CLICKING HERE to start working with me as your coach. Reframing is just one of the may tools you will walk away with so that you can live the life you really want. Namaste, Simone
I am available for a select group of one-on-one coaching clients. Besides personal coaching, I also teach people how to coach themselves, either one-on-one or within a Mastermind group. Which method would work best for you? Check out the options on my website by CLICKING HERE.

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