Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) methods help you to spot and change negative thought patterns, assumptions and processes. Try these four NLP techniques from Dee Marques to reframe how you think and embrace feeling more positively about yourself.


Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is often used to improve interpersonal dynamics. It also has applications in personal growth and development. Several NLP techniques can help you live a more enjoyable and meaningful life.

Indeed, NLP underscores the importance of mastering higher self-awareness methods to spot patterns, thoughts, and assumptions that can be preventing you from finding happiness in your life. Here are four valuable NLP techniques that you can use and the science behind them.


1. Anchoring

Anchoring is one of the most common NLP techniques. The goal of this method is to elicit positive responses at will by associating a particular mental and emotional state to an anchor. This anchor is set by you and can be an image, a word or a gesture. Anchoring improves our ability to control emotions and to take an active role in self-management. It enables us to be less prone to feeling powerless and overwhelmed.


How to use the anchoring NLP technique:

  • Elicit a time when you experienced the intense positive feeling you want to trigger in other situations (e.g. feeling achievement the moment you got a promotion).
  • Bring in sensory cues associated with that state (e.g. what you saw, felt, smelt, heard).
  • Bring the memory to its most intense point and then associate your feelings to an anchor (e.g. twist a ring on your finger, pinch your earlobe).
  • Take a short break and repeat the steps above.
  • Test the anchor (e.g. pinch your earlobe) to elicit the intense feeling of achievement.

NLP techniques reframe negative thoughts into positive ones shutterstock/Odua Images

You can then use the anchoring method whenever you need an emotional pick-me-up, either on its own or alongside the other neuro-linguistic programming techniques outlined below. 


Anchoring is based on the psychological concept of conditioning, whereby a stimulus triggers certain responses. Anchoring helps you elicit the response you want through repetition. It benefits you by putting you in charge of your emotions. Moreover, some studies suggest that when coupled with other techniques and interventions, anchoring can even work to help overcome phobias and irrational fears.




2. Reframing

Next on the list of NLP techniques is 'reframing', or viewing adverse events from a different 'frame'. This NLP method allows you to open up your mind to opportunities that may be lying ahead instead of dwelling on the negatives. In short, reframing changes the focus from negative and overpowered to positive and empowered.


How to reframe a thought, feeling or behaviour:

  • Identify the thought, feeling or behaviour you want to change.
  • Establish contact with the innermost part of yourself that is triggering the negative mood. This could be an image, voice, an expression, etc.
  • Find the positive intention behind that part. Let's say you have a fear of flying. The sound of a plane's engine taking off triggers anxiety because it wants to protect you. This intention is good, but the response is inadequate.
  • Focusing on the positive intention, try two or three ways of responding that will help you realise such intention. For example, acknowledge the protection and self-preservation, which is why you choose the safest way of travelling (flying vs. driving).
  • Ensure your subconscious is fully committed to trying alternative responses, and that it won't sabotage your reframing efforts. Check for conflicting beliefs, and if you find yourself making excuses, go back to the previous step and find alternative ways of responding.

Reframing is used as a therapeutic technique for its ability to modify perceptions. Different parts of the brain trigger memories and emotions: memories are stored in the hippocampus, whereas the amygdala mainly controls emotions.


“Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) improves interpersonal dynamics. NLP techniques can help you to live a more enjoyable and meaningful life.”


When recalling past events, the amygdala responds by triggering an emotion that replicates the original one. However, reframing reminds us that the nature of that emotion isn't fixed and that we can break automatic patterns and prioritise rational responses over knee-jerk reactions. Indeed, reframing is a NLP technique that proves it's possible to break free from the so-called amygdala hijack.


RELATED: Changing perspective 

3. Meta-modelling

Meta-modelling is one of the most powerful NLP techniques. It gives you the ability to help identify self-imposed constraints that may be preventing you from finding happiness and questioning them. The easiest way to meta-model is by looking at the language you use in everyday life, paying attention to these three types of patterns:

  • Generalisations Evidenced in thoughts along the lines of, “I'm always so unlucky” or “all men/women are the same.”
  • Distortions Mind reading (e.g. “John didn't greet me today, he must be upset with me”) or cause-effect statements (e.g. “if I don't lose weight, I will feel like a failure”).
  • Deletions aka cherry-picking your understanding of reality to confirm pre-existing beliefs. For instance, someone with poor self-esteem would ignore compliments and pay undue attention to critiques, leading to thoughts like “people don't find me attractive.”

How to use the meta modelling LNP technique

Identify which category your thoughts belong to, then start the exploratory process of questioning the negative thought pattern. For example, if you catch yourself in a deletion like “people don't find me attractive”, meta-modelling questions to ask would be, “which people specifically?” and “how exactly do you know that?”.

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The chances are that your answers will include a generalised statement with the words “always” or “never”. Then it's time to ask yourself whether you are realistic by claiming that things are always this way and never that way. When meta-modelling, it's also useful to ask about alternative courses of action. For example, in the statement “if I don't lose weight, I'll feel like a failure”, ask yourself whether feeling like a failure is your only option.

NLP-techniques-neuro-linguistic-programming.jpgUse these NLP techniques to change negative thoughts into positive ones


Meta-modelling works because it forces you to challenge ingrained response patterns that can evolve into what psychologists call excessive avoidance behaviour. This is unhelpful because it limits your ability to learn from new experiences. The effectiveness of this technique is also linked to pattern separation. When faced with a new situation, we tend to compare with previous ones, but if pattern separation is active, you will understand that different scenarios require different responses.

RELATED: The amazing effects of MBSR – backed up by science

Meta-modelling can prompt you to develop healthy habits such as listening to yourself and challenging limiting thoughts. This can help you become more resilient to cognitive distortions, and more skilled at challenging deep fears, lessening anxiety and tension.


4. The Swish Method

This is one of the NLP techniques that emphasize the severely limiting effect of negative thoughts. The goal of the Swish method is to identify mental and emotional triggers of negativity and replace them with an ideal response. When using the Swish technique, you don't have to take any action, but become aware of the alternatives available. You thereby train your brain to set off a “happier mode” whenever negative thoughts and emotions begin to overpower you.


How to use the Swish NLP technique:

  • Identify the feeling that triggers anxiety. Example: you may be anxious about exam performance even though you've done your best to prepare for it. In this case, the trigger feeling would be nervousness.
  • Next, know how your mind and body react to such feelings (e.g. nail biting, knots in the stomach, etc.) Create a visual image of the context in which this happens (e.g. as you walk into the exam room).
  • Think about how you would ideally like to respond as you physically enter the context in which the negative thoughts take place (e.g. confident, well-prepared, optimistic, etc.).
  • This is called the replacement thought. In your mind, visualize the negative state and figuratively place the replacement thought over it. Make sure it appears bigger, stronger, and more vibrant, while making the negative emotion appear in black and white or blurry.


Regular practise is essential for NLP techniques shutterstock/Shift Drive


As it happens with all the other NLP techniques for happiness, you need to practise the Swish Method a few times to ensure the replacement thought becomes the default response. So, do it at least five times and speed up the visualization with each round. To check for effectiveness, evoke the trigger thought/feeling and its context, and see how you feel about it.

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This NLP method is a visualization technique driven by the principle that seeing is believing. In fact, research studies have shown that the brain does not differentiate between real and visualized events, as they both activate the same parts of the brain.


“Meta-modelling is a powerful NLP technique that can help you to identify self-imposed constraints that may be preventing you from finding happiness.”

Other studies have shown that the type of mental rehearsal involved in visualization has a direct effect on fundamental cognitive skills, including memory, attention, and perception. The benefits of mastering this technique include improved emotional performance and a calm and confident approach knowing that you don't need to let negative thoughts dominate your life.




Summary: NLP techniques

Neuro-linguistic programming can help you tap into the resources and skills needed to you train your brain and take control of thoughts and beliefs, facilitating the achievement of a fulfilling life. Anchoring, reframing, meta-modelling and the Swish Method are four key NLP techniques for happiness and personal empowerment that are worth putting in practice. 

Main image: shutterstock/Roman Samborskyi | The fine art of being: learn, practise, share

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Self care | Neuroscience | Positive psychology



Written by Dee Marques

dee.jpgA social sciences graduate with a keen interest in languages, communication, and personal development strategies. Dee loves exercising, being out in nature, and discovering warm and sunny places where she can escape the winter.



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This is an excellent post - thank you for sharing and presenting the information so well.


BTW. This page was the top result out of 1,040,000 results on my Google search, and they got it right ?!

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I hadn't really understood the topic of NLP before reading this articles, so a big thank you ? It's easy to get stuck in thoughts and processes in how we deal with input of any kind, and I think it's really important to try and practice self-awareness and change any negative patterns. I think any of these NLP techniques could be really useful, you just have to find what works best for you and what you can actually keep up. Meta modelling and changing the way we speak to ourselves is something I've heard of before, and I think it's a really powerful NLP technique! 



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1 hour ago, Guest Jimmy Cosgrove said:

Spelling 'linguistic' incorrectly in the first sentence doesn't fill me with confidence that you know what you're talking about.

Thank you, Jimmy Cosgrove, for pointing out the typo. It has been corrected so the next person who is reading this article might have more confidence in the expertise of our authors. ? 

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Spelling 'linguistic' incorrectly in the first sentence doesn't fill me with confidence that you know what you're talking about.

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These 4 NLP techniques sound too good to be true. Honestly, I think for the most part it doesn't matter what method you use - NLP, the law of attraction, affirmations, ... If you are digging deep, you are determined, realistic and clear you'll get there. Maybe it's more a question of what resonates more with you, which language you speak. Some people like to dissect and plan; others are more on the side of getting themselves ready on an emotional level. In the end, both need to come together. 
Whatever you choose: Keep practising!

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I went through your blog, its an excellent one. It gives us brief description about NLP techniques and ways it can help us. I recommend this blog and Anil Thomas, if you want to know more about NLP.


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Refraiming is one of the NLP techniques that really works best for me. Since I am aware, I get a lot better, changing bad thoughts and/or feelings, just being conscious of the situation and change the reality of it

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I have never heard about NLP or NLP techniques before reading your article. It was recommended to me by a dear and wise friend. I then went on to discover how to use NLP, and I must admit that I am very much intrigued. I have never been very good at managing emotions and this has, to some extent, cost me dearly in life. I wonder whether these techniques might work under hypnosis? Something to consider. I wish you all a wonderful day.

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I think this probably works very well for those who are not damaged beyond repair or have a glimmer of hope left in them.

What a way to talk, eh? Once upon a time, any talk of "beyond repair" or "beyond hope" would have been incomprehensible and appalling to me. Once upon a time, I also had very vivid recall (and powers of visualisation) - and when I say "very vivid" I mean VERY vivid. Nothing was easier for me than to imagine anything or to recall any moment, with all its concomitant sensations and emotions. I could anchor myself with the greatest of ease (and I did); in fact, it was that what led me out of horrible situations, almost unscathed and stronger than ever.

This is what scares me: a few days ago, I noticed I cannot do that anymore. I cannot recall my past sensations and emotions.  Worse than that, my happiest memories now seem pointless to me, so I don't actually want to recall them. My present brokenness is deleting my past, too. I feel like a beggar in rags who had spent her entire life dreaming about another life in the sun, then woke up in her squalor and realised it was all a dream - and a waste of time, at that.

To anchor yourself in your happier past, you have to have some hope for a happier future left in you. I don't. I do, funnily enough, believe in miracles (or "miracles", if you prefer), I just don't feel like a potential or worthy recipient of them anymore. (When I did, it was, paradoxically, because the locus of power was in ME; now it isn't.)

I don't even know why I am writing this. It contributes nothing to the topic, and it reveals nothing new to me. Maybe I am hoping, after all, for that ray of light - even if it comes from outside - to penetrate my mind once again and illuminate it, like it used to.

All the best to everyone.



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