Positive self-talk is one of the first things I recommend clients change when they come to me for help living a healthier lifestyle. The words you use in your own mind are where positive changes begin, and learning to control those words gives you the power to make the vision you have for your life possible. Positive self-talk can be used to help motivate, strengthen willpower, and relieve everyday stress. Here’s how.
First, let’s discuss what positive self-talk isn’t: It’s not your ego running wild. You can be humble and selfless without being self-deprecating or putting yourself down. No one will think less of you for thinking well of yourself.
Self-talk is the stream of thoughts constantly running through your head, from the moment you wake up to the minute you fall asleep. For many of us, our harshest self-talk happens in the morning when we look at ourselves in the mirror, criticizing our perceived flaws and completely forgetting what marvelous people we really are.
This self “trash-talk” has been linked with increasing stress and depression, placing the focus on your “failures” instead of how you can improve your life. Even more dangerous is that words become reality. More than 30 studies of self-talk in sports have shown that the words athletes use to talk to themselves have a very real impact on how they perform on the court and field. I would argue that self-talk works on a cellular level as well, literally forming who and what we are, as well as how we see the world.
- To begin controlling your self-talk, first become aware of how you’re currently talking to yourself. Are you kind? Do you treat yourself as well as you would your best friend? Probably not.
- Next, cultivate a “growth” mindset by catching a negative thought and turning it into an opportunity to do better. For example: “I am a fat cow” could become “I would feel better if I lost 10 pounds, and I know how to make that happen.” This puts you in power, rather than taking your power away.
- Use your self-talk to help yourself cope with difficult situations, like a “To-Do” list that’s a little too long. A natural thought is “I’ll never be able to get this done.” But that is not a helpful sentiment. Focus on the solution, rather than the problem by rephrasing: “It’ll all get done.” It will. And if it doesn’t, maybe it didn’t need to get done in the first place.
- Stop beating yourself up over things that have already happened. Let’s say you had a slip of the tongue at your last meeting and accidentally said something that offended a workmate. Instead of churning the situation over and over again in your mind, put all that mental energy into simply apologizing to the person in private and moving on. That is far less stressful than dwelling on your mistake, and a more effective solution.
When you take control of your self-talk, you take control of your life. Don’t waste another minute on negative thinking patterns!