When we’re discussing positive self-talk, we’re referring to using our inner voice in a way that’s uplifting and supportive, rather than destructive. It’s about talking to ourselves from a place of
acceptance, love, and self-compassion without judgment. This practice, which may evolve over time, reminds us of the great impact the way in which we talk to ourselves has on all aspects of our lives.
We all have them, those voices in our head, seeming to direct their very own orchestra of thoughts. Bringing our awareness to these inner voices can sometimes be enjoyable and other times it can be a rather difficult experience. Take for instance the all too familiar situation of wanting to change or improve one’s lifestyle. What would this include? Depending on your current circumstances, it might mean at times a rather radical shift: Finding time every day for meditation, stretching or moving your body, yoga or any other mindfulness practice. Or maybe it’s learning to deal with high levels of stress, staying calm throughout challenging situations. The list goes on.
In the beginning of that journey, choosing the “right” thing (the action that brings you closer to your goal) can be rather exhausting. We may still feel stuck in our old ways of thinking or familiar patterns of behavior that make it feel more difficult to create change. Often in children’s movies, when a character is faced with situations like this where they’re pulled from one thought to another, an angel and a devil appear on each shoulder, whispering in their ear. These characters represent those so-called “voices in our head,” or the warring thoughts we may have when we’re making a choice. So, what are they whispering? What do they say? How do they say it?
Many of us may not experience two distinct voices, one bad and one good as is often depicted on film and in TV. Instead, we may hear an indistinguishable amount of noise in our heads, almost like the buzzing of bees. And amidst all that sound, that whirling within our minds, a storm of feelings and emotions awakens in our inner world.
So, what can we do in times like this so that we don’t lose ourselves to the noise? How can we navigate these thoughts, particularly the negative ones, choosing to talk positively too and about ourselves?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to simply make use of a well-constructed recipe for how to navigate life, one we could follow throughout any circumstance? Even though the internet is full of recommendations, suggestions, and advice, we might just as well accept that there’s no one-size fits all. Establishing a solid relationship with ourselves will look different for each one of us. In my opinion, whichever path you choose in order to establish and maintain positive self-talk, can only be done from a place of love. And in this particular case, a place of self-love. Shouldn’t we all try to love ourselves as much as we can, meeting ourselves from a place of acceptance without judgment? By doing so eventually over time, we’ll find compassion not only for others but also for ourselves.
Dr. Kristin Neff is one of the leading experts in the field of self-compassion. According to her, self-compassion means choosing self-kindness over self-judgement, common humanity over isolation, and mindfulness rather than over-identification. One of her suggested exercises is called, “Changing your critical self-talk,” reminding us to be aware of our own inner critic in a caring and loving way in order to help us to build a good relationship with ourselves.
The term “positive psychology,” coined by M. Seligman at the end of the last century, is part of a scientific field of research that intends to boost positivity and help individuals thrive. This branch of psychology is supported by research showing that positive psychology interventions can help increase one’s experience of overall life satisfaction and happiness. Another study by Armetta also shows that positive-self talk can heavily increase individual levels of happiness. More so, more research has shown that a regular practice of positive self-talk may have three major benefits on your life:
So, what does that mean exactly? Which exercises can we incorporate straight away?
The following three exercises are personal recommendations you can use as inspiration for finding what feels right for you on your own unique path.
This first practice is rather simple: Take your time.
As many of us are used to waking up to an alarm clock five days a week, working on to-do lists, meeting deadlines, nourishing interpersonal relationships, and just in generally being utterly busy with the many aspects of life, it may not be easy to add yet another task of talking positively to ourselves. Four words we may have already forgotten as soon as we’ve written them down, secretly wondering when we’re supposed to squeeze another activity into our already full agenda.
That’s why as a first exercise I recommend being gentle with yourself and taking your time.
A simple awareness of how you’re talking to yourself in the beginning of your journey is already enough. When you notice negative self-talk, just be aware of it. Eventually, to take it a step further you can bring your attention to how any self-talk impacts your well-being, how you navigate your days, your relationships, and life in general. What would happen if you chose positive self-talk instead? How can you shift your current self-talk toward one that’s supportive?
This is a process that can’t really be finished in a certain amount of days, weeks, months, or even years. In my personal opinion, this is a life-long exercise that we have to return to again and again.
When thoughts feel confusing and they’re all just one big mess up there in your head, try to capture them in the moment. You can do this through keeping a journal, notes on your phone, filming yourself, or recording your voice. This way, they’re not only one big storm rushing through your mind, leaving you exhausted and drained. Instead, they become words that you can read or listen to at any time. By taking this step, you can look back on your thoughts more objectively with a clearer awareness of your own patterns of thought. When you look at your thoughts, you can ask yourself: What do they say? Where do they come from? Why are they present?
If thoughts crop up that are colored by heavy emotions, such as self-criticism, anger, or frustration: Accept that they are there. Simply accept their presence, remembering that they too can teach you something about yourself and help you grow.
There’s a famous saying that goes something like: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
We often find ourselves meeting friends and/or family from a place of unconditional love, willing to help them through every crisis with kindness and patience: Practice that same care with yourself.
It may sound easy at first, but it can be one of the most difficult exercises. Sit with yourself as you would sit with a friend. Brew yourself a fresh cup of coffee, treat yourself to your favorite food, take a long bath, or do whatever you feel like to nourish yourself.
During these times, allow yourself to create space just for you. Listen to yourself from a place of love as you would for your dearest friends and family members.
Author: Dilara Erikli