What is self-talk?
Self Talk is your communication with yourself in a way that helps you get through tough times. Even though you might not know it, you’re already practicing self-talk.
Self-talk is basically your inner voice, the voice in your mind which says things that you don’t necessarily say out loud. Often self-talk happens without you even realising it and can be a subtle running commentary going on in the background of your mind. But what you say in your mind can determine a lot of how you feel about who you are.
So what is positive and negative self-talk?
Positive self-talk is the stuff that makes you feel good about yourself and the things that are going on in your life. It is like having an optimistic voice in your head that always looks on the bright side.
Example – “These clothes look pretty awesome on me”, “I can totally make it through this exam”, “I don’t feel great right now but things could be worse!”
Negative self-talk is the stuff that makes you feel pretty crappy about yourself and things that are going on. It can put a downer on anything, whether it is good or bad.
Example- “I look stupid in these clothes”, “everyone thinks I’m an idiot”, “everything is crap and nothing is going to get better”
Negative self-talk is particularly bad as it brings you down all the time. It can impact on recovery from mental health difficulties and tends to make people pretty miserable. But being positive all the time isn’t achievable either, and isn’t helpful all the time. So how can you make your self-talk work for you?
Why does self-talk work?
Self-talk affects the subconscious mind. It is the type of talk that chatters constantly in the back of our minds without specific, conscious thought. Things we think, but don’t say. Things we tell ourselves about ourselves or about our job or our life, but don’t rationalize or justify before we say them.
The subconscious mind is programmed similarly to the way a computer is programmed, so like a computer the subconscious mind will only perform the tasks it is programmed to perform.
Information presented to the subconscious mind causes both a psychological and a physiological response.
The subconscious mind does not hold any biases or beliefs other than those that have already been programmed in.
The brain records exactly what it receives without regard to where it comes from or how it get the information. The brain doesn’t care whether the information is true or false, right or wrong.
The programming you accept from others and the conscious and unconscious directives, pictures, feelings and thoughts that you transmit to yourself in your own control center of the brain–the subconscious mind.
Recognize what types of phrases we should not be saying.
What NOT to say:
- Nothing ever goes right. (a.k.a. Could just one thing go right?)
- I’m no good at … (fill in the blank) (a.k.a. I’m not that creative/smart/ambitious)
- Why should I try? It won’t work out anyway.
- I can’t get caught up. (I don’t have enough time. This is too much work.)
- I’ve tried, I can’t.
- What is wrong with me today? (a.k.a. Why isn’t my mind working?)
- It’s just not my day.
- I’m so tired.
There are three things you can do that can help with changing the direction of your self-talk.
Listen to what you’re saying to yourself- we don’t always consciously take note of that we’re saying in our minds. The first step in improving your self-talk is to actually notice what your inner voice is saying. Take some time each day to listen, and even write down, what you’re thinking.
Monitor your self-talk- Is your self-talk more positive or negative? Start questioning your self-talk asking things like:
Is there actual evidence for what I’m thinking?
What would I say if a friend were in a similar situation?
Is there a more positive way of looking at this?
Am I keeping everything in perspective?
Can I do anything to change what I’m feeling bad about?
Change your self-talk – Easier said than done, but definitely worth working on. Try by countering your negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, if you think “I’ll never be able to do this”, ask yourself “is there anything I can do that will help me be able to do this?” Avoid speaking in finite language and try and look for things that might add a better spin to a tough situation.
Things TO say:
- I’m making progress.
- I can handle this.
- I’m willing to try.
- I am in control of this.
- I am excellent at … writing/singing/problem solving
- I have a fantastic … mind/talent/ability with people
- I keep trying.
- I’ll get it.
When to use your self talk
Take the time throughout the day to positively build yourself up. When you are happy, angry, sad, excited, depressed, or any negative thing. The emotional state you are in does not affect the amount of positive self talk you should be using. The only thing that determines how much positive self talk to use is one thing. And that one thing is using it all the time!
- Right when you wake up
- While you are brushing your teeth
- While you take your shower
- When you eat breakfast
- While you drive to work or go to school
- When you are at school/work throughout the day
- Whenever you feel down
- Whenever you feel uplifted
- On your way home
- While eating dinner
- While spending time with friends/family
- While getting ready for bed
- While laying down in bed