Finding the “silver lining” of potential bad news (before you receive it) can minimize stress and improve emotional well-being, according to a new study.
How can we better prepare ourselves to receive bad news?
Waiting for news can make us very stressed and anxious, especially if there is the potential for bad news that could end up ruining our day.
In one helpful study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, researchers looked at the benefits of preemptively reframing “bad news” before you receive it.
In multiple experiments psychologists studied people waiting to receive specific news such as the results of a bar exam, the outcome of a political election, or the results of a fictitious health risk assessment.
Participants were asked to identify at least one potential benefit of receiving bad news.
For example, in the health risk assessment, participants were instructed:
“Please think of one benefit that would come from receiving results indicating that your toxin level risk is high. What silver linings can come from receiving these results? That is, list at least one benefit of receiving a high toxin risk result. Expand on your thinking: Why is what you listed a benefit? How is this benefit related to your health or other goals?”
How would you reframe that news? What potential benefits can you think of?
Of course, there are multiple ways to reframe anything, and what works best will often depend on the individual. One example from the study included this written response:
“Receiving results regarding my exposure to toxins can help me understand the potential sources and, as a result, can help me avoid coming into contact with hazardous sources of toxins present in my daily life. Avoiding these toxins can have benefits on my physical and mental health, which I feel can help me feel better about the world around myself.”
That works for me.
One simple way to reframe any type of bad news when it comes to health is that it is often better to know your risks (and diagnoses) than to not be aware of them.
Only by getting an accurate health assessment can you act accordingly, make the necessary lifestyle changes, and/or get the treatment you need – which will lead to better health outcomes in the long-term vs. not knowing your current condition.
Overall, psychologists discovered that when people preemptively reframed “bad news,” it not only minimized stress and anxiety during the waiting period, but also minimized the emotional impact of bad news if it happened to come true.
In addition, if the participants received the good news instead, the preemptive reframing didn’t seem to backfire on them or hurt the celebration.
Many of us already know about the benefits of reframing (or cognitive restructuring) on our mental health and well-being – how we choose to think about an event in our lives can often be just as important as the event itself. Two people can have the same exact experience but walk away from it with two completely different attitudes.
However, this study is one of the first to look at the benefits of reframing before an event happens to us.
By engaging in preemptive reframing, you are preparing yourself for the worst on a psychological level.
So when you find yourself waiting for uncertain news, think “In the worst case scenario, at least…” Try to find the benefits or “silver lining” no matter what happens to you in life.
By doing this, you soften the blow if bad news happens to come true; and if you receive good news instead, all the better!
One reason this strategy works is that it can help manage your expectations. If you expect only good things to happen to you all the time, you won’t be ready if the eventual bad news occurs.
A big part of developing patience in life is recognizing the long-term path – and accepting that obstacles, difficulties, failures, and rough patches are often an integral part of that journey.
Reframing takes practice. You need to make conscious time for it before it becomes your natural way of thinking.
I’m constantly reframing negative thoughts (in both myself and others) in real-time throughout the day. If a thought doesn’t sit quite right with me, I need to chew on it for a bit before I can view it in a more healthy and constructive way.
One exercise that works is practicing mental habits every morning. One of them is to “Reframe a Negative Thought” that has been buzzing in my mind lately.
Often I end up reframing something that happened to me yesterday or earlier in the week, but there are also times when I will reframe something in the future that I’m worried or anxious about.
This type of “preemptive reframing” can shield you from negative thinking in the future – it reminds you that you have a choice in how you think about the events in your life, even events that haven’t yet happened.
It’s also easier to reframe something before it happens, when you’re still in a relatively calm state of mind. Once negative emotions takeover your brain, it can be really difficult to think rationally or reverse those patterns in the moment.
When it comes to mental health, a lot of people wait to hit rock bottom before they seek a change. Taking preventive measures can save you from a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering.
Be more pro-active with your mental health. It’s something that affects everyone.
Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement:
The post Silver Linings for a Cloudy Day: Reframe Bad News Before You Get It appeared first on The Emotion Machine.