How to turn your mind into a friend: negative –> positive thoughts

June 2, 2014

How our mind is naturally

How our mind can be with training

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters” – Epictetus

Most of my life, I believed my thoughts. In college, discovered Tony Robbins. He’s a master at changing lives fast by interrupting their thinking patterns.

Changing your thoughts is referred to as Reframing.

Tony’s favorite reframe tool is NLP, a way to visualize better memories.

Before reframing, you have to become aware of your thoughts. Most of us are unconsciously thinking negative thoughts & memories.

Ways to become aware: mantra meditation, guided meditation, mindfulness meditation, journaling, go to a therapist etc. Observe your thoughts.

Ways to reframe: NLP, The Work by Byron Katie, Cognitive Behavior Therapy, or read Stoic books. All of these are free tools.

Reframing your thoughts is not like turning on a light switch. It’s not a one and done action.

It’s more like learning how to drive.
Seems impossible in the beginning. The more you do it, the better you get.

My inner critic is gone. I turned my mind into my own success coach. Reframing is a daily practice.

If I can do it, so can you.

In college, I drank a lot, ate a lot, slept a lot, skipped classes a lot & watched tv a whole lot.

Especially late night.

One night, I saw a Tony Robbins infomercial. It was about changing your life, habits, thoughts & actions. I had no idea this existed.

This was before google, youtube, podcasts, itunes. So the flow of information was much less back then. Around 2002-03.

Anyways, I drove to Borders the next day & bought his super thick book: Awaken the Giant Within. I have only ever read maybe a couple of pages in there. I wasn’t really into reading.

But the book did come with an audio cassette which I listened to nonstop while driving.

Tony is a big fan of NLP (neuro linguistic programming) to rewire our thoughts & habits.

That’s also the first time I had heard of Reframing.

It’s the act of training your brain to think different thoughts than it automatically does.

If you’re like me, your brain naturally turns towards the negative. Back then, if someone looked at me, I assumed they were being aggressive. Or there was something on my face: a booger? gyro sauce? Is she thinking how ugly I am?

I had a habit of never letting anyone pass me up on the highway. I know it sounds insane now but I would purposely never let anyone pass me either on the right lane or left lane. If they did, I would have to speed up and overtake them.

I thought if someone passed me on the highway, they were thinking how bad & slow of a driver I was. I wanted to be the best.

Tony Robbins was the first person who I heard mention that our automatic thoughts are likely wrong. I didn’t even know what I was thinking. I operated like a robot. I had no awareness.

I think I heard of Reframing & NLP in 2003. I will tell you that it took me 11 years to figure out what that means!

To be specific, I only figured this out in MAY 2014! Yea, just a few weeks ago.

I find that sometimes I have to read a lot of different topics before I can understand one topic. Knowledge compounds.

So even though I had heard of NLP & Reframing, those concepts were so out of my reality that I had no way of understanding or putting it to use.

So don’t feel bad if you don’t grasp self-improvement topics right away. Surely, you will not take 11 YEARS to figure something out.

There are many ways to reframe, I’ve found out:
Or with the support of a coach/therapist who uses all those tools

Visual: NLP
NLP is just a fancy way to say visualize. Our brain thinks in images. A lot of those images are negative. Our memories are negative.

They’ve done studies where most people’s memories are usually wrong. If you went to a wedding. Come home and write down exactly what happened. Then wait a year and write down what you think happened. Most likely, the latter will be much different than the former.

Memories cannot be trusted! Especially negative ones.

If memories can’t be trusted, can we implant new memories?

That’s basically what NLP is. You can take the sting out of negative recurring memories by picturing them as black & white, small, distant etc. As if you’re making a movie in your mind.

You can implant new memories by thinking of what you really want. Picture yourself doing it. Make the images bigger, louder, colorful, with great music, etc.

There’s more to NLP but that’s the basic idea.

I have yet to master NLP. It’s complicated for me but it might be the right tool for you.

LINK: NLP Exercises

THOUGHT: Types of Meditation

1. Mantra meditation
Where you repeat a word over and over so that your mind gets a rest from the negative thought loop

2. Guided meditation
Where someone says positive powerful things & you listen.

3. Mindfulness meditation
Where you pay attention to the air coming in and our of your nose, or try and scan your whole body with your mind. This is a way to distract your mind so you get a break from the thoughts. This also allows you to notice thoughts coming in and out of your mind. Awareness. Once you know how you naturally think, you can work to change it.

Most of the time, we are unaware. We’re rushing out the door in the morning, fighting rush hour traffic, get to work & immediately start answering emails & phone calls. Before you know it, you’re home, watching tv & passing out.

Mindfulness lets you see/hear/know what’s happening in the mind.

I borrowed (ripped off) the title for this post from Sakyong’s book: Turning the mind into an ally.

WRITTEN: Byron Katie, Cognitive behavior therapy, Stoics

This is my favorite method currently because I find it easier to write rather than sit still to visualize.

The Work by Byron Katie

1. You write down a belief that you have.
ie: I’m ugly and nobody likes me

2a. Is this belief true?

No. There have been times where girls have asked me out. Or strangers have smiled at me. There are people who are way uglier than me who have met girls. What does ugly mean anyways? Is there a scale? Or is it in the mind? Would I want to be with someone who judges everyone based on their skin rather than what’s inside?

If you answered Yes, go to 2b. Otherwise go to 3.

2b. Are you sure this belief is true?

The point here is that beliefs are wrong. You can find the evidence against all your beliefs. Someone somewhere thinks differently than you.

There are uglier people than you who have a better time. There are people who are stuck to wheelchairs who are happily married. There are people better looking that you who are alone & unhappy.

If you surveyed 100 people, all 100 would not say you are ugly. It’s impossible. Etc

3. Who would you be without the thought that you are ugly?
More confident. make more eye contact. Be happier. Be more open to people looking at you. Be more open to dating. Blah blah, you get the point.

4. Turn the belief around

Original: I am ugly & nobody likes me

Turnaround (reframe): I am handsome and everybody likes me
Find evidence to support this belief

Turnaround 2: I am pretty good looking. And some people like me. And that’s all that matters
Find evidence to support this belief.
There has to be at least one person who thinks you’re great. Your mom?

Turnaround 3: This guy (find an example) is ugly but people love him
Find an example

That’s it. That’s reframing.

This method only works for me if I actually write it all out, by hand. If I just think the reframe, it’s not as powerful.

I don’t know why. But write it out and see how you feel.

This isn’t a once and done deal. It helps to make this a regular practice.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy:

This is a field of psychology that works on immediate solutions. It doesn’t matter what happened to you as a kid. What matters is the now. And what you think.

Change your thoughts, change your life.

All of us have cognitive distortions. Which are beliefs that we think to be true that are untrue.

You can work on yourself right now, without going to a therapist or spending money.

Go here and look at the worksheets. These are the exact sheets that my therapist uses.

Look for “Cognitive Distortions” worksheet to see that everyone thinks weirdly, not just you.

Use some of the worksheets to manually reframe your thoughts.


Stoics were the original reframers.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.

When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.

Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome) is full of reframes.

It’s his personal journal where he wrote down his most important reframes. Even for a powerful emperor, it was a daily habit to question his thoughts & change his beliefs.

You can read what he told himself. And adopt his thoughts.

Also great is The Handbook of Epictetus.

Letters from a Stoic by Seneca is pretty good, I prefer the other two authors.

You can learn to think & write like them daily. And your thoughts will change.

Now get to work!

PS: Oh yea, you can also do self hypnosis. I haven’t had much success with this.

There are infinite tools to get the one job done.

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