The Power of Reframing


This week, as we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to share with you a little reframing exercise I learned years ago on a yoga training.

Let's take something that most of us don't really enjoy doing - washing the dishes...

It's the end of a long day, you get up from dinner and just want to go relax, but first - "I have to wash the dishes."

Feel the weight of those words. I have to wash the dishes. The heavy burden of an obligation. Ugh.

Now, just change one word in that sentence.

"I get to wash the dishes."

Get to? Why would anyone say they get to do a chore - like it's some kind of privilege?

Well... I get to wash the dishes because I got to eat dinner, because I had food in my fridge. In fact, I get to wash dishes because I have a house with a kitchen, and a fridge, in it. 

When I reframe this mundane chore, by switching out one simple word, I realize that it is a privilege. My heart suddenly feels lighter, the sense of burden evaporates as I'm filled with gratitude for these simple things - my house, my kitchen, the ability to buy and prepare delicious healthy food.

We know intuitively that feeling grateful feels good. But it's not how many of us move through our days. That's because humans have a natural negativity bias - we're always on the lookout for what isn't right in our world, because evolutionarily speaking, that has kept us safe.

But this protective function also has a downside - when we are constantly feeling negative about the things happening in our life, when we feel overburdened by obligations, this can create physiological stress in our bodies - which over the long term can contribute to chronic disease.

This is when we can use reframing and gratitude as powerful tools. It's not just wishy washy feel-good talk. Feeling grateful actually causes the release of feel-good chemicals in our brain, and research has shown that a practice of gratitude can increase positive emotions and reduce depression and anxiety.

So - what else do you get to do?

Household chores, yard work, care-taking, errands, paperwork, exercise, appointments, phone calls. You can take almost any one of these obligations and change our the word have to for get to and find something to be grateful for in the most mundane and tedious of tasks.

This practice doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive to lighten our loads by shortening our to-do lists and obligations. But there are just some things in life that we have to, I mean get to, do. So practicing appreciating the positives associated with that task, rather than just resenting the negatives, is just a more enjoyable way to move through the day.

I don't always remember to do this - but when I do I inevitably feel better. I invite you to give it a try.