How reframing things can help our mental health

At high school, my art teacher selected one of my paintings for an exhibition. I wasn’t quite sure what she saw in it, as I’d only seen it in amongst the chaos and the busyness of the art room, but when I stepped into her office and saw it in a brand new frame, I saw it through different eyes.

Sometimes the way we see or perceive our life experiences is as important as the experiences themselves. Often we have little or not control over what is happening externally, (particularly around other people’s decisions), but how we choose to view those things is something we can have control over.

Reframing can help us Be Kind to Our Minds by changing the narrative around our circumstances a little bit at a time. The best news is, our brain chemistry helps us out in the process with a little chemical called dopamine, which actually helps with problem-solving.

Here’s how it works: SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS

When we choose to reframe our circumstances with a more positive point of view, we begin a cycle of dopamine being released into our system:

• One bit of movement in a positive direction can just give you just enough dopamine to start to feel a teeny-tiny sense of wellbeing.

• Dopamine helps with problem-solving.

• Which can create another boost of dopamine.

Solving a problem gives us a boost which actually sets us up for more achievement. It’s a positive cycle, and that’s the best kind of cycle, right?

Here’s a couple of ways I’ve used reframing in my life:


I have a wonderful friend who had lived through a massive personal challenge. She introduced me to the concept of ‘Flip it’. She would take a challenge and see if she could turn that thing on its head, with some funny results. I try this regularly, and it can change my perspective just long enough for me to crack a smile.

When petrol was at its highest price I remember standing at the pump. I couldn’t fix the problem so I tried to flip it, instead of thinking, “My $50 is not going to get me much petrol,” I would think “I won’t have to stand out here in the cold for very long while I get my $50 worth of petrol.”

The situation didn’t change, but the way I looked at it did, and that set me up for clearer thinking moving forward.

Do you have some things in your world that are making you feel powerless? Try the flip-it technique and find out if you can see the situation from another point of view.

Sometimes by changing the language around the challenge, it can completely change our perspective. And if it doesn’t help, it might just make us laugh a bit – another great way to get some dopamine!


I have learned to swap out the words ‘I have to’ for the words ‘I get to’.

If you’re out for coffee and it’s time to leave and pick up the kids from school, rather than framing this with the words ‘I have to pick up the kids,’ try thinking, ‘I get to pick up the kids.’

It’s a small change in words and a massive change in thought. I love the way it makes me focus on the good things, the privilege that comes from the things that are in my life. So many people don’t get to pick up their kids from school and would swap places in a heartbeat.

It doesn’t make the situation any more convenient, but it reframes my attitude towards it.

One of the best ways to learn to reframe, is with the help of a therapist or counsellor as they use their external voice and perspective to help us change ours. Reframing is not a magic trick, but it’s one of the tools in the mental wellbeing toolbox that we can use on a daily basis once we have made it a practice.

Adult life is full of pressures. It sure does make the need for reframing grow with every grown-up challenge that comes with it!

Julia Grace is the author of Be Kind to Your Mind, Jelly Buddy Publishing, $29.99.

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