It’s important to have people in our lives that support us, encourage us, and help us stay positive. But we often overlook the voice that we hear the most, which is our own. Is your self-talk supportive, encouraging, and positive? Do you catch yourself being self-critical or negative toward yourself? It’s okay to be real with yourself about the challenges you are facing but practicing positive self-talk helps us reduce stress and feel better about ourselves.
Positive self-talk requires kindness. When you make a mistake, and we all do, are you understanding or do you “beat yourself up”? What if you are having trouble making a decision – are you patient with yourself? We tend to offer other people more kindness than we offer ourselves, holding ourselves to a much higher standard than we hold anyone else.
Positive self-talk is encouraging. We don’t give up on our friends and family when we see them work toward a goal. We shouldn’t give up on ourselves.
Positive talk is truthful but gentle. When you have to tell a friend something you know is not easy to hear, you choose your words carefully, taking his or her feelings into consideration. It’s okay to see what isn’t going well and be aware of our own weaknesses or flaws. In fact, it’s important. But we need to speak to ourselves with compassion.
Positive self-talk is a healthy choice. Using positive self-talk helps to reduce stress, lower the risk for depression, improve your immune system, and even contribute to better heart health. Start by being aware of how you think, when you are being negative or critical of yourself. Gently reframe your thoughts into a kinder, more positive message, the way you might talk to a friend. If there is one specific area you are most negative about, start there. For example, if your negative self-talk is most often about your weight, make that a focus. You could focus on encouraging yourself to eat more vegetables and fruits and avoid processed foods, acknowledging when you have made healthy food choices with a positive thought! When negative thoughts start up, take a deep breath and consciously change the talk to what positive actions you have done and could do.
Negative self-talk often has a long history, a dialogue that we’ve been hearing in our heads for years. Sometimes we view ourselves or treat ourselves a certain way because of past events or relationships. Changing this can take time, but it is worth the effort. Positive self-talk is a more effective tool for change and improves the quality of your life. If you find it difficult to change negative thoughts, consider seeing a therapist or psychologist to help you.
Replacing Negative Self-Talk with Positive Self-Talk
Negative: I’ve never done this before and I’ll probably mess it up.
Positive: This is a wonderful opportunity for me to learn from others and grow.
Negative: I’m overweight and out of shape. Why even bother?
Positive: I am capable and strong, and I deserve to feel better.
Negative: I didn’t reach my goal. I am such a failure.
Positive: I am proud of myself for even trying. That took courage. Now I know what doesn’t work.