Right now, even the most optimistic among us might struggle to maintain a positive mindset. The combination of enduring a multi-year global pandemic, preparing for a looming recession, and mitigating crazy market fluctuations is a lot to bear.
In trying times like these, one of the best ways to cope is to leverage the one aspect we can control: our perspective.
Depending on how we view a situation, it can be seen in a positive or negative light. A classic example is the metaphor, “Is the glass half-full or half-empty?” Psychologists call this “reframing” because it helps create a different way of viewing and experiencing events, ideas, concepts, and emotions to find more positive alternatives which influence your thoughts and behaviors.
Here are five deceptively simple but highly effective ways to reframe your thinking and transform your mindset during these trying times:
1. Find the good
When bad or unexpected things happen, they can throw us into a tailspin. When you find yourself dwelling on a tough situation, try responding by saying to yourself, “This is good because…” and then list all the ways why there might be a positive angle to the current scenario. For instance, when you were mandated to follow a shelter-in-place order and are working from home, you could say, “This is good because I’ll keep myself and others safe, I won’t have to commute in traffic, and I get to work on that project I kept putting off.”
Finding a situation’s silver lining helps reframe it as a positive and pulls you out of a negative mindset.
2. Add “yet”
When you feel frustrated about what you currently can’t do or don’t have—strike out on your own, understand how to operate a new piece of technology, or your dream job— it’s easy to get trapped in a downward spiral.
However, when you add the word “yet” after one of these negative statements, it transforms it into a more positive one: “I don’t have my dream job” becomes “I don’t have my dream job yet.”
“Yet” implies that there will be a future solution or resolution; the current situation is only temporary. Adding “yet” speaks to possibilities rather than constraints.
3. Turn “Yes, but…” into “Yes, and…”
You can come up with reasons why things won’t work or improve when stressed. In these instances, your reaction to a suggestion might be to say, “Yes, but…” However, “Yes, but…” is discouraging, disheartening, and negative; it halts a conversation and any forward progress of an idea.
A simple way to reframe those situations is found in improvisation, which is rooted in the principle of “Yes, and…”. In improv, one partner must agree with what the other partner has just said or done and then add to it by saying, “Yes, and…”.
“Yes, and…” is a builder that invites collaboration; “Yes, but…” shuts things down.
Cultivating a “Yes, and…” mindset means that you’re curious about and open to the suggestions of others, agree with at least part of what they say, and then find a way to build on their ideas.
4. Swap “have to” with “get to”
Has your to-do list become a to-dread list? When you find yourself lamenting about having to do something, use your awareness to catch yourself. That task—even if it’s something you like doing—has become a point of stress rather than a source of joy.
When you swap out an “I have to” with “I get to,” everything changes. “I have to create a new marketing plan” is an obligation, whereas “I get to create a new marketing plan” is an opportunity. Having to do something feels like a chore; getting to do something feels like a reward.
5. Shift from “I’m going through this” to “I’m growing through this”
We all know (or maybe resemble?) those who think the world has conspired against them. They possess a victim mentality and ask, Why me? They’re perpetually in crisis mode, fearful, anxious, sad, and fail to take action.
When you feel challenged, you’re offered two perspectives from which to view the situation.
Choosing to see your current circumstances as “I’m going through this” can be demoralizing and deflating. Going through something is passive; it’s happening to you. In this scenario, you remain pessimistic and primarily driven by fear, resigned to the status quo.
However, those who fare far better elect to adopt an alternate mindset where they tell themselves, “I’m growing through this.” Growing through something is action-oriented, positive, and empowering. It means you’ll come out of your current circumstances with newly acquired wisdom, changed for the better.
Shifting your mindset to the possibilities of a situation helps you not only while you’re in the midst of a trying time but also enables you to reframe future scenarios so you can thrive.