Self-talk is the inner monologue you hear in your head. It’s a direct result of your subconscious mind that helps to reveal your thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas. Self-talk is something you do naturally throughout your waking hours.
The self-talk you participate in can be positive or negative. It can easily switch between encouraging and distressing. The biggest factor in your inner monologue is your personality: optimistic, pessimistic, cynical, and other type of mindsets. People are becoming more aware that positive self-talk is a powerful tool for increasing your self-confidence and curbing negative emotions. People who can master positive self-talk are thought to be more confident, motivated, and productive.
If you feel as though your self-talk is too negative, or if you want to make a change to utilize more positive self-talk, you can learn how to shift that perspective. This can not only help your mental health, but also your physical health too!
What is negative self-talk?
Negative self-talk, also called rumination, is the flipside of positive self-talk. It happens when you replay upsetting or cringe-worthy thoughts or events over and over again in your head. Thinking through a problem can be useful, but if you spend a lot of time ruminating, small issues tend to snowball. Constant rumination can make you more likely to experience depression or anxiety.
Why is positive self talk good for you?
The way you talk to and view yourself directly impacts your overall ability to perform and general well-being. Furthermore, positive self talk and a more optimistic outlook can have other health benefits, including:
- increased vitality
- greater life satisfaction
- improved immune function
- reduced pain
- better cardiovascular health
- better physical well-being
- reduced risk for death
- less stress and distress
While there is no clear explanation as to why individuals with more positive self-talk experience these benefits, research suggests it is caused by mental skills that allow them to solve problems, think differently, and be more effective at coping with challenges.
How does self-talk work?
Before you can learn to practice more self-talk, you must first identify negative thinking. This type of thinking and self-talk generally falls into four categories:
- Personalizing. You blame yourself for everything.
- Magnifying. You focus on the negative aspects of a situation, ignoring any and all of the positive.
- Catastrophizing. You expect the worst, and you rarely let logic or reason persuade you otherwise.
- Polarizing. You see the world in black and white, or good and 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 is can be done. A 2012 study shows even small children can learn to correct negative self talk.
Examples of Positive and Negative Self-Talk
Negative: I’ll disappoint everyone if I change my mind.
Positive: I have the power to change my mind. Others will understand.
Negative: I failed and embarrassed myself.
Positive: I’m proud of myself for even trying. That took courage.
Negative: I’m overweight and out of shape. I might as well not bother.
Positive: I am capable and strong, and I want to get healthier for me.
Negative: I let everyone on my team down when I didn’t score.
Positive: Sports are a team event. We win and lose together.
Negative: I’ve never done this before and I’ll be bad at it.
Positive: This is a wonderful opportunity for me to learn from others and grow.
Negative: There’s just no way this will work.
Positive: I can and will give it my all to make it work.
How do I use this on a daily basis?
Positive self-talk takes practice if it’s not your natural instinct. If you’re generally more pessimistic, you can learn to shift your inner dialogue to be more encouraging and uplifting.
However, forming a new habit takes time and effort. Over time, your thoughts can shift. Positive self talk can become your norm. These tips can help:
- 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.
Self-talk is important in many ways. It’s the script that we use to frame our lives. If we constantly give ourselves negative messages, then we begin to develop automatic thoughts that take us from a particular incident to a negative emotional reaction. Conversely, if we engage in positive self talk, we begin to view the world in a more positive manner and will ultimately feel better about ourselves. We can’t always control what happens, but we can control how we react to it!
If you continue to ruminate in your negative self- talk, talk to a therapist. The therapists here at New Roads are specially trained to help you figure out how to avoid negative thinking patterns. Reach out to our admissions team today to find out more!