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R is for Reframing

Updated: Apr 8

As human beings living in an ever-changing environment, we naturally try to make sense of all the stimuli in an instant. In navigating our responses, our brain's main task is to keep us alive by continually predicting and managing resources. The things we do every day, like eating, sleeping, spending time with friends, or dealing with illnesses, affect how we feel. Those simple conscious feelings are called mood and act as the barometer of our body's energy level. We experience them as comfortable or uncomfortable, active or calm.

Since uncertainty is the most energy-draining thing for our brains, in today's rapidly changing world, they can easily become overwhelmed. Our mood declines, signaling stress and exhaustion.

The brain then creates a story to make sense of our mood in relationship to the signals from our surroundings. By doing so, it taps into our memories of similar past experiences to figure out what's going on right now. That process is what we call an emotion. Emotions are not built into our brains from birth. We create them. The predicted story is an explanation for all the stimuli happening within and outside of our body. If our mood is low, we might mix up a cocktail of emotions we usually label as negative. So, if you want to feel different, you can either change the sensory present or the remembered past.

How does this idea make you feel now—overwhelmed or liberated? Owning our emotions comes with responsibility. There's no right answer, but realizing that you can change how you think and feel is a powerful tool. It has the potential to alter the narratives in our minds, even those we habitually replay. If you're feeling mentally stuck and caught in the same patterns, perhaps it's time to consider reframing. Reframing is a way to consciously shift your mental perspective, either in a positive or negative direction. The next time you feel stuck, think about how the signals from your body and the world could be interpreted differently.

The choice is yours. Additionally, you can take care of your body's basic needs. Reframing doesn’t come easy. It involves patience and compassion with ourselves. But, in the end, this process gives us control in an uncertain world, allowing us to become the architects of our own emotions.

Do you want to learn more about reframing?

📚 "How Emotions Are Made" by Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett. She is a University Distinguished Professor of psychology at Northeastern University and collaborates on neuroimaging studies of emotional processing.

✏️ Get my free worksheet about reframing

R is for Reframing
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