Positive self-talk

Self-talk is your inner voice that runs throughout the day. It can help you process experiences, make decisions, ask questions, and influence how you feel. Understand how positive self-talk can help to improve your day and wellbeing.

What is self-talk?

Self-talk is your internal mental chatter or inner voice in your head that runs throughout the day. It’s how you talk to yourself and it helps you to process your day and experiences. Self-talk can be different things – it can be routine, it can help us to finish an activity or prepare for an event, and it can make an observation.

Your self-talk can be positive, or it can be negative. You might not always be aware of your self-talk, but it can impact how you feel and affect your confidence.

 

Understanding negative self-talk

If your self-talk is more on the negative side, it can start to affect your wellbeing and mental health. Examples of negative self-talk include: “I never do anything right” or “I’ll never be good at this.” Sometimes we can get stuck in these negative self-talk patterns.

Harvard University[1] has identified common types of negative self-talk, which include:

  • Thinking it’s all or nothing – if you fall short of perfect, you think you have failed.
  • Overgeneralising – you think a single event is evidence of a pattern of defeat.
  • Using a mental filter – you dwell on one negative detail.
  • Rejecting the positive – you reject a positive experience saying, “it doesn’t count”.
  • Jumping to conclusions – you make a negative assumption even with no facts to support it.
  • Catastrophising – you exaggerate the importance of your mistake.

The more we do negative self-talk, the more we feel bad about ourselves. If you notice you are doing this often, try to change it with some positive self-talk.

The key issue in managing negative self-talk is to be aware that it is happening and separate those thoughts from yourself. If you treat such negative thoughts with a genuine interest, rather than blind acceptance, some of the job is done. You take back the power from the negative voice, knowing that your thoughts are not necessarily who you are. Although you can’t control what comes into your mind, you can control or decide what to do with those negative thoughts.

If you’re becoming overwhelmed by negative self-talk, you can get help. Speak to your GP, health professional or call SuicideLine Victoria on 1300 651 251. If it is an emergency, please call 000.

 

Understanding positive self-talk

Positive self-talk, as the name implies, is positive and can help you to feel better about yourself and what’s happening in your life.

It can be possible to turn your negative self-talk into positive self-talk. You can start by noticing when your self-talk becomes negative, and then think about the situation in a more positive way. You can think about what you’re grateful for, focus on the benefits, and keep things in perspective.

Using positive self-talk doesn’t mean you will never have any negative self-talk. It’s about challenging some of your negative thoughts and misconceptions so that your thoughts aren’t mostly negative. Positive thinking can help you deal with some negative thoughts in a more constructive way.

According to Health Direct[2], some of the benefits of positive self-talk include improving self-esteem and wellbeing, managing stress levels, and potentially helping to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

 

Examples of positive self-talk

Here are some examples on how you can get started with positive self-talk. Each example has a negative thought, followed by how you can start to think about your situation more positively.

 

Setting: I am very stressed out about an upcoming situation.

Negative self-talk: “I won’t be able to cope with this situation.”

Positive self-talk: “I am coping quite well, given everything else that is going on. This situation is stressful, but it will pass.”

 

Setting: I am very worried about failing at an important meeting / presentation / job interview.

Negative self-talk: “I’m terrible at meetings / presentations / interviews and I will mess up just like last time.”

Positive self-talk: “This is a stressful situation but there are things I can do to get ready (e.g. prepare answers for questions you may be asked, practise your presentation, research the company you are interviewing for).”

 

Setting: I am feeling very overwhelmed and stressed.

Negative self-talk: “Nothing seems to be going well and I can’t do anything right.”

Positive self-talk: “Today, I woke up, made the bed and walked the dog, and I did a great job.”

 

Setting: I am part of a team and I did not achieve what was expected of me.

Negative self-talk: “I’ve let everyone down because I failed and didn’t achieve my goals.”

Positive self-talk: “I am proud of myself that I tried.”

 

Setting: I am being asked to do something that’s new to me and I am nervous and worried.

Negative self-talk: “I’ve never done this before, and I will most likely make a fool of myself.”

Positive self-talk: “This is an opportunity to learn something new.”

 

Setting: There’s too much on my plate.

Negative self-talk: “There’s no way I will get everything done. This is impossible.”

Positive self-talk: “I need to take a moment to plan out the next steps and take it one day at a time.”

 

The more you practise positive self-talk, the easier it will become. Try to keep things in perspective and try not to underestimate your ability to cope.

 

If you are struggling, speak to one our SuicideLine Victoria counsellors on 1300 651 251 or you can click on the floating chat button on the right to start a web chat.

If it is an emergency, call 000.

 

References

[1] Harvard University https://sdlab.fas.harvard.edu/cognitive-reappraisal/identifying-negative-automatic-thought-patterns

[2] Health Direct https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/self-talk#:~:text=Research%20shows%20that,and%20personality%20disorders

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