We all have negative self-talk at one point or another. Some seem to experience it more than others. I think that usually has to do with one’s environment in which they learned these tendencies. But there is an emotional consequence to negative self-talk, which of course you can guess is negative feelings. Most of the time people are not even aware that they are doing this but most of the time people feel the emotional results. That is because the words we use have meaning and have not only an emotional impact but in some cases a physical one too.
I will never forget learning about the power of words in my social psychology class way back in 1998… (wow that was a long time ago :)) The experiment went something like this: a sample size of 1000+ people were individually brought into a room with a special machine, which measured pressure that one could apply by pushing down on it with your hand. The subjects were instructed to apply as much pressure as they could with their dominant hand while saying the phrase, “I can’t” over and over for thirty seconds. The following week the same sample of subjects were brought in and told to do the same thing while saying the phrase, “I can” over and over for thirty seconds. The results were statistically significant in showing that the outcome of pressure applied when saying “I can” was far greater that the pressure applied when saying “I can’t” when results were compared from one week to the next. This experiment was one example that impressed upon me the power of words and their effect on human behavior/ability. We may not always think that expressions or words really mean that much, but they do!
The first step in changing these negative tendencies is to become aware ‘when,’ and ‘that’ you are doing it. The fix may not always come from just trying to inhibit these tendencies. In fact, I think the most influential work needed is to begin a “practice” of positive self talk. The more this behavior is practiced, the more easily you will be able to replace the automatic negative self-talk or thougts that come up. It starts with an intention, (do I want to change this pattern?), requires execution (am I willing to try), and then practice, practice, practice. Thinking patterns are kind of like muscles, in that the more you train, the more capable you become. No one can expect to pick up a 50 pound weight and do twenty reps of curls. That would hurt and maybe be impossible for some. We need to be realistic about changing behavior (even thinking behavior) and start out with one step at a time. I personally have an alarm in my phone that goes off every night at 8:45pm and states, “What are you thankful for?” This was my prompt for my own practice.. I needed some coaching, and my alarm was helpful as a reminder to practice this positive way of thinking.
There are many ways you can choose to practice positive self-talk. It could be, “What did I do well today?” “What moments did I enjoy today?” The more you practice finding things to acknowledge that are good or going well, the more things you will find and see that are positive. I can guarantee you that the emotional consequences of positive thoughts are positive. This is one way to influence your outlook, mental health and overall well-being.