How do you speak to yourself? We don’t mean talking out-loud while you’re walking down the street. We mean, what is the tone of your inner dialogue?
Many of us spend a lot of time up in our own heads, especially lately; our social interactions are at an all-time low and stressful situations are at an all-time high. And unfortunately, as the result of all that alone time, sometimes negative internal rhetoric starts to creep in. And these negative thoughts are like cute mugs: You can’t have just one. As soon as you start talking down to yourself, more doubts and emotions follow, and it’s all too easy to spiral down from there.
This is where positive self-talk comes in as a tool for switching that internal narrative. And no, we’re not talking about staring at yourself in the mirror and saying, “I am totally happy,” when you’re clearly upset (although that would probably work too?), we’re talking about altering the inner voice inside your head to be… well… nicer.
The importance of positive self-talk ~really~ can’t be stressed enough. Keep reading to learn what positive self-talk is, what to say when you talk to yourself, and some expert tips on how to speak more kindly to yourself.
What is Self-Talk?
If you’re not familiar with this (sort of popular) term, you might be thinking this is a crazy idea- talking to yourself? Isn’t that kind of whack? But, it’s not whacky. Not at all. In fact, we ALL do it- sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously.
From mentally berating yourself for a verbal misstep in a conversation, to dropping something on the floor and muttering to yourself how clumsy you are, talking to yourself is a normal part of life.
There’s a funny misconception that talking to yourself speaks to a sort of mental instability, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Self-talk- the kind we’re talking about today- is simply “speaking to yourself and treating yourself with kindness and compassion, just like you would treat someone you love,” says Judy Ho, PhD. It goes beyond putting sticky notes all around your house with positive messages- these sort of cute platitudes work for some, poorly for others, and induce hard eye rolls for most.
Honestly, it’s pretty easy to speak to others with kindness, but when it comes to speaking to ourselves, we could all use a bit of help. Here are a few tips on what to say when you’re talking to yourself. Eye-roll disengaged…
First, let’s talk about the science of positivity.
A 2003 study asked its participants to write down five things that they were grateful for, every day, for three weeks. The goal: to determine if gratitude and positivity had an effect on the patient’s health and well-being.
In the end, although the patients’ symptoms didn’t dramatically improve, they slept better and experienced an improvement in overall mental well-being. Interesting, huh?
If you’re on the other end of the spectrum reading this, and you can’t believe you’d ever be the kind of person who enjoys positive affirmations, writing out post-its or counting your blessings out loud, just start small. Some people really find gratitude journals to be helpful, but it can be as simple as waking up in the morning and having a quick chat with yourself about all the good things that are in your life. That’s some self-talk we can really get behind.
Focus on the Present
When you focus on the here-and-now, studies show that you’ll have a better chance of not being negative because you are not thinking about your past mistakes. And hey, we all have them.
When you start to think about your past mistakes, ask yourself: “By thinking about it now, will it change the past?” If the answer is “no”- then let it go, and gently remind yourself that you’re living in the present moment, and all you can do is try to be better moving forward.
Our minds can become really irrational when we let them run totally wild. Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back, come back to Earth, and try to understand exactly what we are thinking and why.
The takeaway: Let the past be in the past. Embrace your mistakes and look forward to your future instead.
Pretend Like You’re Talking to Your Best Friend
You probably have heard this before, but we’re saying it again: Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Some of the things you say to yourself, you probably wouldn’t dare say to a friend. But our brains are occasionally irrational organs, and sometimes- if we’re not careful- they can take control.
Every time you start feeling like you are talking down to yourself, try to think about if you would say those things to your friend. If the answer is “heck no,” then you need to stop what you are thinking, and change it to something more positive.
Talk About Your Goals
A study performed in 2016 found that positive affirmations work best when they expand your sense of self-worth, and are focused on the future.
Essentially, setting goals for the future can be more useful than reciting a collection of affirmations (though again- that may work for you, too!). Doing this will provide concrete evidence to yourself that you can, in fact, do something (even seemingly small) to shift your current mental state to something positive.
If you pay a little extra attention to the way you’re speaking to yourself, you can become your own best friend, instead of your worst enemy- especially when times get tough.
And as always, we want to hear from you! Do you talk to yourself? Tell us in the comments below how you practice positive self-talk and what you say when you talk to yourself!