Positive Reframing and Examining the Evidence

Two types of reappraisal that are particularly effective are positive reframing and examining the evidence

Positive reframing involves thinking about a negative or challenging situation in a more positive way. This could involve thinking about a benefit or upside to a negative situation that you had not considered. Alternatively, it can involve identifying a lesson to be learned from a difficult situation.  Finding something to be grateful about in a challenging situation is a type of positive reappraisal. For example, after a break-up you could think about the opportunities to meet new people, the things you learned from the relationship, and the gratitude you feel for the time you spent with the person.

Examining the evidence involves weighing the evidence for your interpretation of a situation.  This involves examining the assumptions you are making about how other people are thinking, feeling, or likely to behave.  You might evaluate how likely it is that a negative outcome occurs, think about how often a negative outcome has happened in the past in a similar situation, or think about what the worst possible outcome is (and whether it is likely to happen), and whether you could handle if it did happen. You can also ask yourself: “What is the evidence that this outcome will happen?”  For example, after performing poorly on an assignment and worrying about the consequences on your GPA, you can think about other assignments you have done well on in the past, the likelihood that you will be able to do well on the next assignment, and whether you could handle getting a lower grade than you wanted if it happened.

Other strategies for reappraisal include remining yourself that thoughts aren’t facts, identifying extreme language (e.g., I will always feel this way; things will never get better) and rephrasing with less extreme words, questioning the assumptions or biases that led to your interpretation, and taking on someone else’s perspective (e.g., if you told someone else about the situation, would they interpret it the same way?).

Sometimes the first way we reappraise a situation won’t stick, and that’s okay.  It’s important to try to think about situation flexibly in different ways until you land on an interpretation that feels right to you.  This is not always going to be the most positive interpretation!

Please use this worksheet to practice reappraisal in relation to situations that aren’t going well or are making you upset.  It sometimes helps to generate multiple reappraisals for each situation.

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