Whether you realize it or not, you talk to yourself all day. Self-talk is something you do naturally throughout your waking hours. It’s the thoughts that you have in response to everything happening. These conversations you have with yourself can be destructive or beneficial. They influence how you feel about yourself and the world around you, and how you respond to the events in your life.
Researchers have shown that positive self-talk is a powerful tool for increasing your self-confidence and sense of well-being. People who have positive self-talk are more confident, motivated, and productive.
Negative Self-Talk is Harmful
Before you can start trying to practice more positive thinking, you need to be able to recognize your negative self-talk. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are four types of negative self-talk:
You magnify the negative part of every situation. If you gained 2 pounds this week, you beat yourself up and forget about the fact that you’ve lost 10 pounds in the previous weeks.
To see if you’re having this kind of negative self-talk, ask yourself, “Am I forgetting any positives in this issue?”
You put the blame for everything on yourself. If your friends cancel dinner plans, you assume it’s probably because they didn’t feel like spending the evening with you. You don’t consider that it’s because something came up or they’re just too busy.
To see if you’re personalizing things, ask yourself, “Am I blaming myself for something that has nothing to do with me?”
You always expect the worst. For example, if you have something bad happen to you first thing in the morning, you’ll complain all day that you’re having a horrible day.
Ask yourself, “Am I expecting the worst before it even happens?”
You either see things as perfect or terrible. If you get mad at your child and lose your temper, you beat yourself up for being an awful parent.
Ask yourself, “Am I looking at this issue as only black or white with no grays?”
If you find yourself falling into any of these four categories often, you need to take the steps to change your self-talk to be more positive. That change in attitude has a lot of benefits.
Positive Self-Talk is Good for You
Positive self-talk is an effective stress management tool. And having positive thoughts even provides you with health benefits. One study showed that people with positive attitudes have an overall better quality of life.
Self-talk can also enhance your production, performance, and sense of well-being. Research has shown that thinking positively can help athletes have better performances, better endurance, and more power through a heavy set of weights.
Positive self-talk has been proven to have the following health benefits:
- Increased vitality
- greater satisfaction with life
- improved immune function
- reduced pain
- better cardiovascular health
- less stress
- better physical well-being
It seems clear that if you don’t naturally use positive self-talk (and some people just naturally do), then you need to retrain your brain toward a more positive outlook.
How to Make the Switch
If it doesn’t come naturally to you, you’ll need to work at starting to talk to yourself more positively. Try to make these types of changes in your reactions:
Negative: I didn’t eat well today. I knew I’d fail at trying to eat healthy.
Positive: I didn’t eat well today, but I have most of the week. I’ll get back on track tomorrow and I’ll be fine.
Negative: I’ve overweight and out of shape. I can’t help myself.
Positive: I’m capable and strong, and I want to get healthier for me.
Negative: That’s just not how I’m wired. I can’t teach myself to be more positive.
Positive: Learning to use positive self-talk can help me in many ways. I’m going to practice this to get better at it.
Try to become more aware of the way you’re talking to yourself. You may not even realize how much negative self-talk you have each day. Once you see you’re doing it, you can start to change it.
Pay attention and when you catch yourself thinking negatively, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
- Are there any other ways that I could look at this situation?
- If I were being positive, how would I view the situation?
- Is this situation really as bad as I’m making it out to be?
- What can I do that would help me solve this problem?
- Will this matter in five years?
Changing negative self-talk to positive takes practice if it doesn’t come naturally to you. But it can be done!
Talk Nicely (to Yourself!)
Positive self-talk improves your outlook on life. It can have long-lasting health benefits, improve your well-being, and give you a better quality of life. It’s definitely a habit worth working on!
The first step in changing negative self-talk to positive is just to be aware when you’re doing it. When you begin to recognize negative thinking, you can work to turn it into positive thinking. It takes practice and time to change this, but it can be done!
Just remember—you can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you react to it.