Positive cognitive reframing has long been an effective tool for coping and building resilience
As the saying goes, “To err is human.” We all experience small errors and mishaps throughout our daily lives. These setbacks are no fun, often complicating our day, our work, and adding to stress levels.
Even though stress can have a very real impact on employees physically, it often begins as a mental process. When facing life’s setbacks, the way employees view the experience can either intensify—or minimize—the resulting stress response.
In a study at the University of Kent, researchers set out to determine which strategies were more effective for dealing with small failures and setbacks. Specifically, they looked for those strategies that helped people keep up their spirits and feel more satisfied after the fact.
For the study, participants completed daily diary reports detailing the most troubling setback they experienced during the day, what strategies they used to cope, and how they felt at the end of the day. Coping strategies included self-distraction, denial, venting, positive reframing, humor, and acceptance.
Those using strategies like venting, self-distraction, and denial reported poorer mood and satisfaction as a result. The more subjects employed these coping strategies, the worse their moods and satisfaction levels at the end of the day.
In contrast, those who employed positive reframing, acceptance, and humor to cope with setbacks all reported positive effects on mood and satisfaction. And, the more of these techniques the subjects applied to the situation, the more satisfied and happier they felt at the end of the day.
These findings held true for all participants, even those with high levels of perfectionism. That was surprising to researchers because those with perfectionist standards tend to be dissatisfied no matter what they achieve. Yet, when coping through positive reframing, they too reported high levels of mood and satisfaction.
Can these coping strategies—so effective in the study—be applied to daily life? Mental health experts think so. Positive cognitive reframing has long been an effective tool for coping and building resilience. So, the next time an employee experiences a setback, you might want to offer one of these coping techniques for them to try:
The goal is to adjust your viewpoint of an experience to see it in a more positive light, vs. ruminating about any negative aspects. When something goes wrong, try focusing on what was achieved, or look for some useful lesson or meaning in the situation. For example, if you rushed to the bus stop this morning, but still missed the bus, you might:
Rather than dwelling on what happened and beating yourself up over it, try accepting it without judgment by applying these steps:
This technique is a little less scientific as there isn’t always a stepwise way to find humor in a frustrating situation. Still, if we’re able to find something to laugh at in our little slip ups, it can help us to reduce any lingering bad feelings and let go.