Self-talk is the way we engage with ourselves through our thoughts, it is essentially our inner voice. Often, people are unaware that they are even doing this but how we “talk” to ourselves is extremely important because it greatly impacts how we feel, what we do, and how we see the world around us. It is common for people to have a critical inner voice where they will frequently magnify the negative in a situation and leave out the positive. Additionally, it is common for individuals to automatically blame themselves when things go wrong. For example, consider the first thoughts that would go through your mind if you accidentally lost your wallet or locked your keys in your car. What would be the first thing that comes to mind? For a lot of us, the self-talk that would follow may be, “What’s wrong with me?’ “How could I be so stupid?” or “I can’t believe that I could be so thoughtless!” We can be pretty hard on ourselves, and this not only affects our mood, but research has shown that higher levels of self-criticism and negative self-talk can be associated with a variety of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety and stress. Knowing how important these conversations with ourselves are, don’t you think it’s time to start being nicer to ourselves? I know, easier said than done right? Well, here are few ways that can help you to develop your positive self-talk and wean out that “Debbie downer” living inside your head.
Be a Good Friend to Yourself
The good news here is that most of us already know how to be a good friend, at least to others. When a good friend is feeling down or is feeling inadequate in some way, we know what to say, how to adjust our tone, and how to offer comfort through a gentle touch or a warm hug. But sadly, we struggle to treat ourselves with the same degree of compassion when we ourselves are in similar situations. Self-compassion is key for developing positive self-talk and a good start is taking that warm, kind, caring approach that we often take towards others and applying it to ourselves. According to Dr. Kristen Neff, author of Fierce Self-Compassion, we can train our minds and create new habits in order to respond to our mental, physical, and emotional pain with compassion and in doing so we not only learn how to be more self-compassionate, but we can radically change our lives for the better.
Challenge Your Thoughts and Question Your Inner Critic
Although your thoughts may feel very true, try to remember that they are not necessarily facts. So next time a negative thought or voice inside your head pops up it is recommended to ask yourself if the thought is complete, accurate, and balanced. If your answer in no to any part, then it is likely that your thought needs some revising. In order to challenge negative self-talk and destructive thoughts, a strategy that could be implemented is the “Yes, But” technique. For example, “Yes, they did cut down my hours at work this month, but now I get to spend more quality time at home with family for a while”. As previously mentioned, negative self-talk generally presents itself in high pressure situations. And it can be relentless!! Our inner voice is ramped up by emotion making it difficult to think logically. So, it is recommended to listen critically to what you are saying to yourself – and how you are saying it. Next time that inner voice starts throwing around words of discouragement, pause the conversation and attempt to think of ways to change it.
It’s Ok to Ask for Help
If you are finding it difficult to implement positive self-talk, work with a mental health professional like a therapist or psychologist. It is important to ask for support when needed because as previously mentioned self- talk can go so deep that it has been considered a major contributor to our overall health and well-being. Seeking help from an expert can also help utilize various strategies and go a little deeper to help gain perspective in areas that your mind has possibly overlooked.
Try no to look at practicing positive self-talk as tricking yourself in to seeing everything as perfect and wonderful. That is likely an impossibility, and also not very productive either. But instead, use positive self-talk to see the entire truth, not just the negative aspects of a situation. It won’t happen overnight, but the more time and effort we put in, the more positive change we will see in terms of feeling more control in our lives.