Mental re-framing, the art and skill of looking at a situation or feeling, differently. If you want to be happier this is a skill worth developing. It’s easier than you might think. Thinking being the operative word. You see what you’re thinking about any situation increases or decreases your happiness.
We all carry stories about – everything. From holidays, to relationships, to experiences. We create stories, so that when we come around to any of them again, we have a shortcut. Something telling us right away what to feel or think.
Sometimes those stories are happy, helpful and increase our connections to those people and experiences. Other times, they drag us down and make us feel worse.
Over the last few weeks I’ve had some keen reminders of the difference re-framing makes in our lives, by choosing to create new stories. To re-frame the event we are facing, into something different than what it was. To create anew.
This isn’t “presto magico” done. No, it often means pulling apart those old stories and seeing why they are no longer a good fit. Why when we review them, we feel worse instead of better. Sometimes it’s just a quick re-frame, an acknowledgement of what was, isn’t now and a decision in that moment to change.
Re-framing a measurement tool from pain to happiness
For instance, at a recent meeting with my speaking coach, she asked me to use a scale to let her know how I was feeling. Zero was not great, and ten was the best day ever. Innocuous and helpful. Right?
Eventually, yes, but first I had to wade through the feelings the question elicited.
You see the last time I was asked to use that kind of scale, it was to rate my pain. A bulging disc, pressing on my sciatic nerve. Tremendous, unrelenting chronic pain. Every time I saw the physical therapist the scale represented in its own way, just how good my day was. I never “gave in” to a 10 – extreme pain. But there were plenty of days of 8, 8.5 and even a few at 9.
It was, as you can imagine, physically and emotionally draining. A dark period of my life where healing and life satisfaction was uncertain. It took three plus years before that scale was no longer part of a conversation.
Now, here it was again. In a different context, but it immediately brought me back to all those times when I’d had to rate just how bad my day was.
Once I identified the story, I chose to re-frame the scale. Now, it’s going to measure something much better. A happiness scale, a reminder of all the good things happening in my life.
Re-framing traditions are worth the effort to increasing happiness
Traditions and holidays can send us into other whirlwinds of emotions. It’s a time when crisis hot lines are busy. People are triggered by all the events and stories around days which are supposed to be happy.
I too have struggled with depression and sadness around the holidays. Thanksgiving being one of the more difficult. I’m happy to say that this year has been different.
Acknowledging there are reasons to be sad, I decided I wanted to tackle it head on. I read through a portion of Byron Katie’s excellent book- Accepting What Is. Then I identified what would make the holiday not just easier, but happier. Turns out, it meant accepting and creating a holiday that’s unique, but workable for my situation.
The days of huge family gatherings are over for me. Yet, there existed a window of time to have a short visit with family. I could choose to accept that with warmth and love or do the all too familiar internal whine about how it wasn’t what I wanted.
Facing facts, options and choices, I accepted what was offered. Enjoy the short but genuine extension of time. It worked, and because I accepted the opportunity, left feeling happy instead of miserable and grumpy.
Re-framing existing choices, instead of feeling boxed in
I also chose to review other parts of the holiday schedule. If family wouldn’t be around my table, friends could. Simple, easy.
Taking charge of the event, changed everything. I found myself stopping in the aisle of the grocery store realizing “I’m happy.”
I created a different kind of weekend, that still included family and friends. The only difference being it didn’t adhere to old traditions. By allowing myself the freedom to create anew, I also have a new story. One that brings me great joy.
How many stories are you carrying around that are ready for a re-write? How much happiness are you willing to invite? So often, our limitations are found by our relentless hold on “what was”, when it only takes the willingness to open to what could be.
If you’re interested in knowing where and how to find your happiness stumbling blocks, connect with me. Together, I think we can uncover the places where joy resides and how to invite more of it into your life.
Why remain bound to old stories when you can Start Transforming Obstacles Into Opportunities For Personal and Professional Success, Today.
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