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Positively Beautiful: Sweeten your day with art of ‘re-frame’

My son Grant got to help his neighborhood buddy, Eddie, with a lemonade stand this week. Eddie even shared the profits, much to Grant’s delight.

As adults, we sometimes make lemonade in a different context.

It was Friday morning, and I was looking forward to a weekend retreat with one of my favorite writers and a delightful group of women entrepreneurs.

We’d all flown into Portland, Ore., for the weekend, and I was gleeful about the prospect of curling up in the library of our hotel with my laptop and just writing!

No distractions. No drama. Just delicious brainstorming, happy blogging and free time to revamp that book I’ve been working on for, oh, the past three years.

And then – things happened.

I learned that a key member of my clinical team had to move to a different part of the state at the end of the month for her family. It caught me off-guard.

My 6-year-old fell into one of his very-special-moods at the breakfast table (think: grumpy grandpa trapped in a tiny kid’s body).

The rain started pouring, which meant Dad couldn’t take Grant out of the hotel on the day trip they’d planned.

A couple of lemons, souring the “perfect weekend.”

In the past, hiccups like these might have ruined my whole day. After all, it’s so easy to focus on the negative. As human beings, we’re physiologically wired to fixate on danger, criticism and bad news far more strongly than good news. Our brains have evolved that way as a form of self-preservation. Annoying, but true.

The key to staying positive and productive, I’ve learned, is to master the art of the “re-frame.” Or as your grandma might have called it, “making lemonade out of lemons.”

Cognitive re-framing is the practice of interrupting a negative thought and actively replacing it with a positive alternative. It’s a way of choosing how you want to feel about a situation rather than allowing negative emotions to darken your day.

Writer Eric Proulx tackled big lemons after a layoff and made a documentary called “Lemonade: The Movie,” about people reclaiming their lives during the recession. He did a follow-up with “Lemonade: Detroit,” about the rebirth of car town.

No need to shoot a film, although that might be really cool to do. Just put pen to paper. Starting with a “re-frame script” can help.

“It’s OK that (this) happened. Now, I have an opportunity to (that).”

For example: “It’s OK that one of my team members decided to step down. Now, I have an opportunity to find someone who will bring new skills. And I know that my former employee will be happier, too!”

“I wish (this) wasn’t happening, but I can let it go. The important thing is (that).”

For example: “I wish my son wasn’t throwing a tantrum, but I can let it go. The important thing is that he’s here with his mom and dad, in a beautiful place, spending quality time with his family.”

“I wasn’t expecting (this), but I can handle it. The good news is (that).”

For example: “I wasn’t expecting it to rain all day long, but I can handle it. The good news is now I have NO excuse not to sit down and work on my book!”

Re-framing might feel silly or awkward at first if you’re not used to doing it.

You might think, “Am I just lying to myself? There’s no silver lining, here. This situation is terrible!”

But no, you’re not lying. You’re consciously choosing a new set of thoughts and beliefs about a particular scenario. That’s very real. And very powerful. And very healthy!