The Power of Positive Self-Talk
Imagine you are about to attend a job interview for a job you really want. You are waiting for the interview to start and some thoughts start popping up in your head. What are you thinking? What are you saying to yourself? What does it sound like and how does this make you feel? Are your thoughts; “I got this”, “I can do this”, “I know what I am talking about”, or are they “I can’t do this”, “I have no idea what I’m doing”, or “I’m going to mess up this interview”?
This is your self-talk.
Self-talk is that inner voice we all have, a running monologue of our thoughts, our opinions and our values. It fills our daily lives and plays an important role as it helps us process experiences, events, relationships, and more. Since self-talk is always within us, it knows everything we have done and it can judge us harshly or comfort us kindly.
Have you ever noticed your self-talk? What does it sound like? Is it an encouraging, positive friend or a belittling, negative foe? Are you able to control your self-talk or does it control you? Our self-talk can influence our outlook on life, our relationships, our mental and physical health, and our overall general well being.
Negative and Positive Self-Talk
Negative self-talk is not a friend. It’s our biggest critic and can influence our mood, our well-being, and can create and contribute to feelings of anxiety and depression. Negative self-talk is the voice within that says “I am not good enough” or “Why am I even trying, I’m just going to fail”, and can even manifest in other forms: . Examples of negative self-talk can look like:
- You see the world as good and bad, success and failure; there is no middle ground. It’s all or nothing.
- Your thoughts go straight to the worst possible scenario. There is no reasoning.
- You blame yourself for everything.
- You focus on all the negative aspects and ignore or diminish all the positives.[i]
Thought it can be sometimes easy to fall into these habits, you can overcome them. Positive self-talk is the counter-agent to negative self-talk. Positive self-talk is giving yourself self-compassion when you are experiencing a challenging time or when you have made a mistake; it is your cheerleader when you have fallen down and need to get back up; it is a warm embrace when you need to feel that everything is ok and can get better. Positive self-talk is not ignoring the truth or hiding from reality. It is approaching the situation with a positive, productive attitude. [ii]
The Power of Positive Self-talk
Studies have shown that positive self-talk is beneficial to both physical and mental health. Self-talk strategies can be used to help cope with symptoms of depression and anxiety. Positive self talk also helps to reduce stress, boost confidence and resilience, and build better relationships.[iii] Positive self-talk fosters hope, self-forgiveness and self compassion. “This is hard, and I’m doing the best I can”. Not convinced? Try this:
The next time you notice negative self-talk, take note of how you are feeling. What impact does your negative self-talk have on you? Do this same exercise when you are engaging in positive self-talk. Compare your mood in both instances. Is there a difference? Most likely there is and the positive self-talk feels better.
Practicing Positive Self-Talk
The secret to changing your self-talk is PRACTICE. Just like everything else you have learned, practice will strengthen your skills and help retrain your mind to choosing better thought patterns. Here a few techniques you can try practicing at home, at work or on the go:
- Positive Affirmations – These are positive words, statements or images that can help redirect your thoughts and self-talk. Build a repertoire to have accessible when you need to hear positive messages. Write them down on sticky notes and stick them to your mirror, write them on a cue card or in the “notes” section of your phone, or download an app onto your device. Practice using positive affirmations daily.
- Daily Gratitude – This is expressing gratitude everyday. An easy technique is saying 5 things you are grateful for today – it doesn’t have to be “mega-important”, it can be “I’m grateful the sun is shining”; “I’m grateful for this cup of coffee”; “I’m grateful for my friends/co-workers”. Create a gratitude journal where you write down the things you are grateful for.
- Surround yourself with positive people – As you can imagine, being around positive people can help you stay positive as you start to absorb their positive outlook and energy. It’s a real boost!
- Catch the Negative Thinking and FLIP IT – Be aware of what your self-talk is saying. Instead of saying “Ugh, I messed up again! I’m a complete failure, and I’m always going to fail” FLIP IT – “I’ve made a mistake, and that’s ok. Mistakes are how we learn. No one is born knowing everything”. Keep it real and positive.
- Treat yourself as you would a loved one - One of the best ways to “do positive self-talk” is by treating yourself as you would a loved one – a child, a friend, a family member. Or maybe you have someone in your life who is your biggest fan. Imagine what they would say to you.
Practicing positive self-talk strategies is a good start to changing your inner voice into a nurturing, compassionate friend. However, sometimes, we need to go a bit further and seek professional help from Mental Health Specialists, and at times it can be daunting trying to navigate the system. ConnexOntario is available 24/7 and can help you find services in your local area all across Ontario. Contact our friendly and knowledgeable Navigation Specialists by phone at 1.866.531.2600, by texting CONNEX to 247247 (Std msg & data rates may apply) or by chat at www.connexontario.ca. We are here to help, and remember – “Watch what you tell yourself, you’re likely to believe it.” – Russ Kyle
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