What is positive self-talk and how can it improve your mood, relationships and overall confidence in 2022?
With more focus being dedicated to addressing our collective mental health, it’s time we take a closer look at positive self-talk. What is positive self-talk? It’s the practice of replacing negative thoughts—limiting statements, harsh language, and self-criticism—with affirmations, prayers and more optimistic approaches to stressful situations and challenging life events.
In other words, positive self-talk is simply being able to reframe the narrative, to take stock of your own inner monologue, and evaluate whether it’s helping or hurting your overall outlook on life.
Research has shown that more positive self-talk can increase your mood, strengthen your relationships, and boost your confidence. Who doesn’t want all of those things in the new year?
Here are some tips for practicing (and perfecting) positive self-talk.
The first step in perfecting positive self-talk is to measure just how big of a problem negative self-talk is in your life. We all beat ourselves up from time to time, but if critiquing yourself has evolved into constantly self-sabotaging your own confidence, that inner monologue might be the reason you feel lonely, depressed, and unmotivated.
Generally, negative self-talk falls into a few categories. Personalizing is when you blame yourself for everything that goes wrong. Polarizing is when you create non-existent sides, i.e. everything is either good or bad, right or wrong. Magnifying is when you choose to only focus on the negative of a situation, often making it worse in your mind than it might be in reality. Catastrophizing is when you always expect the worst to happen in any situation. Once you’re aware of these categories, it’s easier to label your personal brand of negative self-talk and take steps to address it.
It’s also key to identify the situations, people and events that might spark more negative self-talk. If you don’t feel confident in your public speaking skills, for example, a presentation at work might trigger negative thinking.
Checking in with yourself and assessing your mental health, especially during difficult times, will help you pinpoint what form your negative self-talk takes, making you more prepared to snuff out those unhelpful thoughts.
2. Craft Positive Affirmations Instead
There’s a reason so many people love creating vision boards, especially at the start of a new year. They fall into the category of positive affirmation, which is when you reinforce the good in your life by constantly reminding yourself of it. That might mean sticking to a couple of go-to statements to boost your confidence when you’re feeling low. It might look like slapping post-it notes with inspiring messages in places you’ll be sure to see them daily. Or it might help to create vision boards, filled with images and sayings that you can turn to when you need to be reminded not to engage in negative self-talk.
3. Turn Limiting Statements Into Questions
Self-limiting statements like “I can’t do this” or “It’s impossible” are notorious for creating more stress in already-stressful environments. What’s worse? They can convince you to give up trying to fix a problem because you’re defeated before ever even attempting to solve anything. Instead of responding to challenges and adversity this way, turn those statements into questions. “How can I accomplish this?” “What can I do to make this possible?” By reframing the statement into a question you automatically set yourself and your abilities up as the answer, which will empower you to tackle the problem head-on.
4. Start Journaling
Don’t think of this kind of self-talk journaling as a chore. Instead, when journaling to address negative self-thoughts, the focus should be on recording the inner-chatter when it becomes obvious to you. That might mean carrying around a notebook and jotting down negative thoughts whenever they arise. It might mean taking written stock of your day once it’s over. Or it might mean chronicling a situation that felt particularly stressful to you, breaking down what happened, how you handled it, and how you felt afterward, before coming back to that entry later to reflect on what you could’ve done differently.
Whatever form of journaling fits your lifestyle is what you should try when combating negative self-talk.
5. Try Changing Your Perspective
Much like turning self-limiting statements into questions, changing your perspective involves stepping away from a situation and re-centering yourself. Some experts even suggest addressing yourself in the third person when doing this, because we tend to be more forgiving of others than we are of ourselves. So, instead of thinking “I ruined that dinner date” or “I messed up that presentation” come at the problem from an outsider’s perspective. “Why does [your name] feel like she ruined dinner?” “What about the presentation made [your name] feel like he didn’t perform well?” Some distance can help bring focus to the situations that inspire negative self-talk.
6. Practice Meditating
Meditating is helpful in so many aspects of life, but when it comes to perfecting self-talk, it can be an especially useful tool for creating positivity and reducing stress. When we talk about meditating in terms of self-talk, this might just mean taking five minutes to back away from a stressful encounter or a particularly rough day to check in with yourself. Close your eyes, focus on your breathing, clear your mind, and be at peace with yourself. For some, meditating for longer intervals, more regularly, or while practicing guided imagery—when you create peaceful scenarios to help calm your mind—might do the trick, but if you’re just starting out or if meditating doesn’t come easily to you, try committing five minutes to sitting with yourself and tuning into your body’s natural rhythm.
7. Seek Help
For some, perfecting positive self-talk means seeking help; not only to identify patterns of negative self-talk but to address why they seem to be controlling your life. This could mean you need the guidance of a professional—a therapist or psychiatrist—to navigate any underlying mental health issues, but it could also just require you to confide in someone you trust: a friend, a family member, a co-worker. Telling someone about your negative self-talk patterns and your goal to practice positive self-talk instead will keep you accountable and give you a safety net if you ever struggle on your journey.