When you talk to yourself, what do you say?
Research suggests that our self-talk—that internal monologue we all have running through our heads—is tied to both our mental and physical health. So listen to yourself: is your inner narrative helping or hurting you?
WHAT IS SELF-TALK?
Self-talk is your inner voice. It’s the way you talk to yourself, and it colors your perspective on yourself and the way you see the world. You might not even be aware of it, but we all engage in self-talk of some kind.
Not sure what your self-talk sounds like? Become a non-judgmental observer of your thoughts and try to notice:
- Which do I allow to take up more space: criticisms or compliments?
- Am I kind and forgiving of my errors?
- Do I expect success or failure?
- Do I give myself the benefit of the doubt or assume the worst?
- Do I root for myself, or tear myself down?
- Would I judge a friend or loved one with the same criteria I use to evaluate myself?
WHY IS SELF-TALK IMPORTANT?
Your self-talk can have a significant impact on how you feel and behave. Whether your narrative tends to skew positive, negative, or neutral can reveal a lot about your thought patterns and beliefs. More positive self-talk sets you up to see things more optimistically, whereas more negative self-talk can do the opposite.
Research shows that engaging in positive self-talk can:
- Improve self-esteem and well-being
- Improve stress and anxiety management
- Reduce symptoms of depression and personality disorders
- Improve body image
- Reduce risk of self-harm and suicide
SHIFTING YOUR SELF-TALK TO THE POSITIVE
Want to make your self-talk a little more positive? The Coach Approach can help!
The Coach Approach asks us to start with an open mind and, by focusing on our values and beliefs, we can zero in on our own unique motivations.
So you want to shift your self-talk: why? What do you hope to gain? What’s standing in your way? Once you’ve made this shift, what do you hope to feel and to think? Coaches use this approach to help clients help themselves. Empowering the client to own their story and focusing on what’s working well (instead of what’s wrong) builds motivation, confidence, and engagement.
If you’re not sure where to start, try identifying your top Character Strengths by taking the VIA Survey, and see where those strengths come up in your daily life.
Creating positive self-talk is a habit that takes a lot of practice. With time and effort, you’ll find that your mindset will shift, and positive self-talk will come naturally, and that brings lasting benefits to your quality of life.
Here are some tips to start to shift negative self-talk to positive:
– Prepare for traps and triggers. For each of us, certain situations and scenarios can trigger negative self-talk. It’s okay to feel things like self-doubt, lack of confidence, and uncertainty—these things never go away completely—but we can choose not to let them take up more space than they deserve. Prepare for these traps by bringing your Character Strengths to the front of your mind. They’ll help you frame your experience in a more balanced way.
– Check-in. Are you having a bad day? Maybe you made a mistake or forgot something important? Take a minute to check-in with your self-talk. If it’s skewing negative, take a breath and reset. How can you be kind to yourself? Forgive yourself? Give yourself the benefit of the doubt?
– Laugh! Laughter helps you de-stress, boosts mood, and elevates positive self-talk.
– Try positive affirmations. Have a favorite mantra? Write it down, say it out loud, and come back to it when you need it. This simple exercise can be enough to redirect your thoughts. You can even post your mantra around your office, in your home, and anywhere you spend a significant amount of time so it can always be present in your mind.
Shifting your self-talk is a lifelong practice, and it’s a meta-example of why self-talk matters: sometimes, you may struggle to shift your self-talk. You may find yourself weighed down by negativity. When that happens, resist the temptation to get frustrated or impatient with yourself and try to shift the moment to the positive: how lucky you are to be present, observing the ways your beautiful mind works. How wonderful it is to be on this journey toward a more positive self-narrative.
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