Why did you eat that dessert? You are such a pig!
You know sugar is bad for you and you ate it anyway. Wow, you really must be stupid!
How can you go to that party? You are so fat and gross!
Would you say any of the above to a beloved friend? Most of us would not even say those words to someone we don’t particularly like, much less someone we love. But we do something much worse—we think things like this about ourselves all day long! And the result could be costing you your best health.
There are a few schools of thought on the subject of negative self-talk but all roads lead to the same conclusion—it’s profoundly stressful and damaging to think this way and it certainly doesn’t help you in your quest for optimal health and happiness.
Folks who believe in the power of positive thinking (remember that film The Secret) maintain that we attract what we dwell on. If we are constantly putting ourselves down and calling ourselves ugly names, we do not progress. Our subconscious brain is very powerful and it often can’t distinguish between reality and made-up thoughts that may not actually be based in truth. Most of these thoughts come from “faulty programming” that may have happened years ago and were never based in truth.
The study of cognitive behavioral therapy is based on the idea that many of our difficulties come from, and are worsened by, an error in thinking. For instance, if you are going through your days telling yourself that you are not very bright, whether that is actually true or not, you are not supporting yourself in growing your knowledge and intelligence. In essence, you begin to believe whatever you tell yourself internally.
If our brains have the power to attract what we dwell on, imagine harnessing that power to go in a more favorable direction. Instead of putting yourself down and being negative, what if you told yourself:
That sugary dessert was not the healthiest choice but I am a strong, intelligent person and I will make a healthier choice next time. I’m going to plan out tomorrow’s meals so that I am not hungry and won’t reach for sugar after my meal. (If you are struggling with sugar addiction, click HERE)
Here are some tips to tame negative self-talk:
- Start each day with a power statement that is meaningful to you such as, “I’m a strong, powerful person and I make solid, healthy choices.”
- When negative self-talk creeps up imagine you are talking to your 5-year-old self. Would you be as harsh and critical if you were talking to a child? Of course not!
- Create a stop mechanism that you will do to “short-circuit” negative chatter whenever it pops up in your head. When I start to go down that path I visualize a huge red stop sign and tell myself (sometimes aloud) STOP! And then I begin to replace the negative thoughts with more helpful statements that remind me that I am an intelligent, successful person who has overcome many obstacles.
- Keep a gratitude list to review each day. Write down at least 3 things each night before bed that you are truly grateful for and let yourself savor the positive feelings when you think about these.
- If you have negative self-talk around something consistently, journal about that topic. Ask yourself why you have been thinking this way. Ask yourself if there may be a more positive way to deal with that topic, and begin to replace the negative statements with more useful ones. Remember that you always have choices and you can reclaim your own power at any time. Eventually it will become natural to focus more on the positive than the negative.
Have you ever caught yourself saying or thinking unkind things about yourself? What tips and tricks can you share to turn that tide? Please post a comment here—we’d love to hear from you!