What are the messages that you are telling yourself? Are you giving yourself the wrong (negative) messages? Are your negative thoughts hindering your progress? Perhaps you tell yourself over and over what a bad life you have or that nothing good ever happens to you. How do you think your self-talk affects your feelings about yourself and your life?
Here are some strategies you can use to change your thoughts and your life:
First, notice your thought patterns. You may not realize how often you tell yourself negative messages or how much it affects how you experience life. The strategies listed below can assist you in becoming more conscious of your internal discussion and its content.
- Journal Writing: Write down your negative thoughts in a journal when you notice them during the day or write a general summary of your thoughts at the end of the day. Alternatively, you can write about your feelings on a specific topic and then go back to analyze them for content. Journaling can be a terrific tool for examining your inner thought process.
- Stop Your Negative Thoughts: When you notice yourself saying something negative, you can stop your thought by telling yourself “Stop.” Saying this aloud is more powerful, and makes you more aware of how much you are stopping your negative thoughts.
- Rubber Band Snap: Another technique is to wear a rubber band around your wrist. Then when you notice negative self-talk, snap yourself on the wrist. It will hurt a bit, but it will serve as a small negative consequence that will make you more aware of your thoughts and help you to stop them.
Next, Replace The Negative:
An excellent way to stop a bad habit is to replace it with something better. Once you realize the content of your internal dialogue, there are some ways to change it:
- Gentler Wording: Have you ever noticed how health professionals talk about ‘discomfort’ instead of pain? This is commonly done because ‘pain’ is such a powerful word and discussing your ‘pain’ level can make your experience of it much stronger than if you are talking about your ‘discomfort’ level. You can test this technique for yourself. When you talk to yourself, turning more powerful negative words into more neutral ones serves to reduce the effect of your experience. Rather than use words such as ‘hate’ and ‘angry’ (as in “I hate fanatics! They make me so angry!”), you can use words such as ‘don’t like’ and frustrated’ (I don’t like fanatics. They make me so frustrated,” sounds a little milder, doesn’t it?)
- Change the Negative to a Neutral or Positive: When you find yourself complaining about something, rethink your assumptions. Are you assuming that an event is negative when it may not be? (For example, having a meeting or flight cancelled at the last minute can be seen as a negative, but you can make positive use of your new found free time. The next time you feel stressed about something or deciding you don’t feel up to a challenge, stop, think, and see if you can determine a neutral or positive replacement for your thoughts or circumstances.
Replace Self-Limiting Statements With Questions: Self-limiting statements such as “I can’t do this!” or “That’s impossible!” are especially damaging because they intensity your stress level in a given situation and they stop you from seeking solutions. The next time you find yourself thinking something that restricts your options in a given situation, turn it into a question. Doesn’t it sound more encouraging to say “How can I do this?” or “How can I make this possible?” Questions such as these can open up your awareness of new possibilities.