How to Reframe a Negative Experience Quickly

5 Techniques You Can Apply to Change Your Emotional State

The ability to reframe a negative experience quickly is a valuable skill that will support having a healthy mental state.

When we have experiences that don’t go as planned, our well-being can get affected. Even though we prefer not to have negative experiences, sometimes we can’t avoid them.

It’s not about what happens that influences our emotions; it’s how we frame those experiences that determines our emotional state.

Things happen and don’t always go as planned, therefore knowing how to reframe a negative experience will be helpful.

What is a Reframe?

A reframe is a way of looking at things differently. It’s about using our perspective to give a meaning to an experience that will lift us up.

This is in contrast to giving a meaning to an experience that brings us down. Whenever we don’t feel good about something that’s happened, it means we’re giving it a meaning that’s not helping us.

Why is it Necessary to Reframe a Negative Experience?

As we develop the ability to reframe a negative experience, we’ll experience many benefits. They may include:

  • Having better mental and emotional health.
  • Maintaining a healthy or positive attitude even when things are unpleasant.
  • Having more self-confidence to handle life’s challenges.
  • Focusing on what we want to experience instead of what we don’t want.
  • Staying inspired and motivated to carry out our responsibilities.

There are techniques we can learn to change our emotional state whenever we’re not feeling our best.

reframe a negative experience

Our most challenging experiences in life often involves other people. I remember I once had a falling out with someone because of something I said. What I thought was funny and playful got interpreted a different way to what I’d expected.

As a result, this person didn’t want to associate with me anymore. Based on the meaning I gave that experience initially, I tried to sort out the misunderstanding. However, that didn’t work because I may have tried it too soon. I didn’t give the person space to process what had happened in their own time and in their own way.

Not being able to sort things out triggered unhealthy emotions, which affected my ability to concentrate well.

I knew I had to reframe that experience and give it a new meaning. When I did, using the techniques below, I forgave myself and learned from the experience.

Even though I wish I’d done things differently, it was a lesson I needed to learn. The ability to reframe that experience was helpful.

5 Techniques to Reframe a Negative Experience Quickly

As we’ll have things that don’t always go our way, learning to give them new meanings will be valuable. Here are five techniques to reframe a negative experience so you can better manage your emotional state.

  1. Observe what’s coming up. Our initial reaction may be to push away or resist the emotions we may be experiencing. Instead, a better approach is to allow ourselves to fully experience what’s coming up. Through the practice of meditation, we can learn to become the observer of our thoughts.

    As our thoughts dictate our emotional state, by separating ourselves from our thoughts, they’ll have less power over us. It’s important to remember we have thoughts but we’re not our thoughts.

  2. Question your assumptions or beliefs. We all have beliefs. Some beliefs serve us and some don’t. Whenever we’re in an emotional state we don’t want to be in, there are beliefs playing out for us.

    This is where we have to question if our beliefs are true. Questions we can ask include:

    • “Is my belief about this situation true?”
    • “How does hanging onto this belief make me feel?”
    • “What is it costing me to have that belief?”
    • “What would I rather have or experience?”
  3. Use the power of your perspective to your advantage. Our perspective is our point of view. It’s how we look at and define things in our lives. If something hasn’t gone as expected, we can use our perspective to give it a different meaning. The new meaning should allow us to take responsibility for our part and help us do things differently next time.
  4. Recommit to your outcomes. Knowing our intentions will help us take the right actions. If we know what our intended outcomes were, we can change our approach to get what we want. As part of recommitting to our outcomes, we also have to extract lessons from the experience. Every experience is helping us be the best we can be.
  5. Relate your situation to something much worse. Whenever something doesn’t go our way, we can always relate it to something much worse. For example, if we felt rejected by someone, we can relate to others who’ve experienced bigger rejections or failures. We can also say to ourselves, “At least ‘X’ didn’t happen.”

    When we relate our situation to something worse, it won’t look as bad as we’re making it out to be. Others have been and are going through much worse.


Our ability to reframe a negative experience will support us in maintaining a healthy attitude. We always can choose how we interpret experiences and the meaning we give them.

If we continue to give a negative meaning to experiences we don’t like, we’ll continue to generate unwanted emotions. If we reframe negative experiences, we’ll give ourselves a better chance of having a healthy mental and emotional state.

How we view our experiences and the meaning we give them are influencing our daily lives.

Action Step: Next time you generate feelings of anger, frustration or disappointment, ask yourself how you can reframe it. Notice what’s coming up for you and the meaning you’re giving it. Then give it a different meaning.

Question: What are alternate techniques to reframe a negative experience quickly?