Self-Talk is something we all experience regularly, our inner voice, often linked to our awareness and at times connected to subconscious beliefs. Self-Talk can at times be driven by negativity, and most often is more easily so. The power of negative self-talk is infinite and can at times be consuming IF we allow it to rule our minds. The choice is ours; we each have the ability to change negative self-talk, break the cycle, and increase positivity.
Below are seven ways to combat negative self-talk:
1.Develop Awareness: Becoming more aware of our thinking patterns and the impact on our mood and behavior is the first step. We can do this a variety of ways, two ways that come to mind for me are:
Timeout to reflect- take a time out to reflect on our thoughts, stop and say to ourselves…” what’s the thought? what is driving it? how am I feeling?”
Journaling – either free journaling or a thought journal, any technique to get our thoughts down on paper can improve our awareness of patterns and become more in tune with ourselves.
2. Challenge It: As we get better at recognizing our negative thinking patterns, we can begin to dive deeper and develop a new pattern of thinking. Often times our negative thoughts are connected to irrational beliefs….challenge these thoughts and bring it back to reality. Using concrete, positive affirmation is a great place to start. Instead of “I am never going to get this right,” challenge with “I am doing my best and my best is enough.” Retraining our minds and shifting our lens takes time and practice, so let’s start NOW. We deserve it.
3. Gratitude: Focusing on our blessings, big or small, is another simple yet powerful way to break the cycle of negativity. You have all heard the saying “an attitude of gratitude,” well now is the time to shift our attitudes and our thought processes to focus on all we have to be grateful for. Whether it’s setting aside a minute or two before bed to reflect on the day, identifying 5 things that we are thankful for or keeping a gratitude journal, practicing gratitude is not only a coping skill but an overall mindset.
4. Step Outside of Yourself: Sometimes when we are stuck in a negative thought cycle it can be helpful to shift perspectives. “What would my best friend say?” or “Would I talk to my best friend like this?” Developing self-talk that has a foundation of self-love and compassion is so powerful and can really combat the cycle of negativity. We can begin this process by talking to ourselves the way that we would speak to a loved one, taking a stance of empathy and encouragement.
5. Talk it Out: There are times when we may need to lean on our support systems to get out of our heads and challenge negativity. Talking to someone in our network, a loved one or a therapist can help us with this process.
6. Put It On the Shelf: At times, our negative thoughts may feel so overwhelming we may need to take a break and step away. Visualizing taking the negative thought or irrational belief and putting it on a shelf…or in a box…whatever works for you, can be super effective in giving us a moment of clarity. Maybe you are at work, in a meeting or at the grocery store and all of a sudden find yourself stuck in a negative thought cycle, the reality is we don’t always have the time or space available to explore and challenge these patterns…..put it on the shelf, do what you need to do and revisit it at a time that better serves you. Maybe later that night when you are writing in your journal, or maybe later that week when you are at a support group or with your therapist. Visualization is an effective skill to manage our thinking and increase our sense of control over our thoughts.
7. Focus on the NOW: Mindfulness is a tool that may not only combat negative thinking, but provides us with a sense of relief, giving us the ability to stop and refocus. Wherever our minds wonder, we have the power to bring it back to this moment and focus on the hope within the present. Breathing exercises, grounding, meditation, etc. are all ways to focus on the now and break free from the grip of our negative thoughts.
According to Buddha, “You can’t live a positive life with a negative mind.” Now is the time to give yourself the life you deserve, one that is built on a foundation of love and kindness. And it all starts with our thoughts…empower yourself to make a change.
Author: Nicole Ehrhardt, LPC, LCADC, NCC, ACS – Footprints to Recovery – Clinical Director