If we’re being honest, we are usually harder on ourselves than we should be. Most times it can be difficult to remember the importance of talking kindly to ourselves. Too much negative self-talk increases stress. But simply changing the messages that we give ourselves can help calm down and manage stress.
Positive self-talk can create a more optimistic outlook, and a more optimistic outlook can have other health benefits, including:
- Increased vitality & satisfaction with life
- Better immune function
- Less pain
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Increased physical wellbeing
- Less stress
- Less distress
- Less anxiety
What is positive self-talk?
Self-talk is your internal dialogue. Influenced by your subconscious mind, it reveals your thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas.
How does it work?
Before you learn to practice more positive self-talk, you must first identify the negative types of thinking and internal messaging that you may not even be aware of. This negative self-talk generally falls into four categories, as described by K Holland, in his article, “Positive Self Talk: How Talking to yourself is a Good Thing” *:
- “Personalizing: You blame yourself for everything
- Magnifying: You focus on the negative aspects of a situation, ignoring any and all of the positives.
- Catastrophizing: You expect the worst, and you rarely let logic or reason persuade you otherwise.
- Polarizing: You see the world in black and white, good or bad. There’s nothing in between and no middle ground for processing and categorizing life events.”
“When you begin to recognize your types of negative thinking, you can work to turn them into positive thinking. This task requires practice and time and doesn’t develop overnight. The good news is that it can be done.”
How to Switch Negative to Positive: Some Examples
- Instead of saying, “I can’t do this,” say, “I’ll do the best I can. I’ve got this.”
- Instead of saying, “I hate it when this happens,” say, “I know how to deal with this – I’ve done it before.”
- Instead of saying, “I feel helpless and alone,” say, “I can reach out and get help if I need it.”
- Instead of saying, “I can’t believe I screwed up,” say, “I’m human, and we all make mistakes.”
It’s not easy changing the way we talk to ourselves, as our patterns have been ingrained over many years. At the beginning, it may help to direct your self-talk toward your younger self, speaking to your inner child. It may even help to look at a childhood photo of yourself while doing so.
It may seem silly, but consider: Would you insult and speak down to a child if they made a mistake or struggled as they tried to figure something out? Would you insult a child’s appearance or how they carry themselves? You know as an adult that negative talk can be hurtful to a child, so it’s not too great a stretch to understand that the same applies to you now, as an adult. Just because you’ve grown older, doesn’t mean you are immune to negative talk. Be sure to give yourself grace in difficult situations and understand that we’re all figuring life out one day at a time.
With that in mind, what advice would you give your younger self and how would you comfort him or her? Remember, that child is still inside of you; speak to him or her kindly, and understand that there’s always room to grow, improve and learn.
To help reinforce these new habits, practice positive self-talk every day – in the car, at your desk, before you go to bed or whenever you notice negative thoughts. K Holland notes, “… forming a new habit takes time and effort. Over time, your thoughts can shift. Positive self-talk can become your norm.” He recommends the following tips:
- “Identify negative self-talk traps. Certain scenarios may increase your self-doubt and lead to more negative self-talk. Work events, for example, may be particularly hard. Pinpointing when you experience the most negative self-talk can help you anticipate and prepare.
- Check in with your feelings. Stop during events or bad days and evaluate your self-talk. Is it becoming negative? How can you turn it around?
- Find the humor. Laughter can help relieve stress and tension. When you need a boost for positive self-talk, find ways to laugh, such as watching funny animal videos or a comedian.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Whether or not you notice it, you can absorb the outlook and emotions of people around you. This includes negative and positive, so choose positive people when you can.
- Give yourself positive affirmations. Sometimes, seeing positive words or inspiring images can be enough to redirect your thoughts. Post small reminders in your office, in your home, and anywhere you spend a significant amount of time. Positive self-talk is a great tool to have in your toolbox and can truly change your outlook when practiced consistently. It can also have long-lasting health benefits. If you are someone that tends toward a negative outlook, change can take time and practice, but it is possible.”
Positive self-talk is a great tool to have in your toolbox and can truly change your outlook when practiced consistently. It can also have long-lasting health benefits. Change can take time and practice, but it is possible to change your outlook and improve your life!
*Holland, K. (2020, June 27). Positive Self-Talk: How Talking to Yourself Is a Good Thing. Healthline. Retrieved September 15, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/positive-self-talk#practice-daily