Tips to Live By

When to Use Positive Self-Talk & How to Do It

Feb. 23, 2021

By Natalie Zuniga

You may not realize it, but an internal monologue is running through your mind throughout the day. Whether you do it silently or out loud, you're practicing self-talk.

In some cases, this inner voice is friendly — lifting you up and celebrating your accomplishments. In other cases, this inner voice is critical — dwelling on your mistakes and what could've been.

It may seem harmless, but an inner critic can affect every part of your life, including your self-esteem, motivation, performance and even your health. What's more, this inner critic can sabotage your ability to feel positively about yourself and others.

While navigating life's daily challenges, it's important to seek positivity for yourself, as well as for those around you. A small step you can take toward achieving this goal is to practice positive self-talk.

What is positive self-talk?

Positive self-talk isn't about ignoring challenging situations or unpleasant circumstances around you. It's simply an approach to addressing troublesome situations using a positive, productive attitude rather than a negative, critical one.

According to Psychology Today, "When self-talk focuses on how we can thrive, and not just survive, it can provide essential motivation to achieve goals.'' Positive self-talk can even help you dream again.

There are health benefits to treating yourself with kindness rather than criticism, too. In fact, a Harvard study shows that approaching life with optimism can increase lifespan and is associated with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, stroke, respiratory disease and infection.

How can I practice positive self-talk?

Here are three simple practices you can use to strengthen your positive self-talk:

1. Focus on the present moment

There's value in applying what you've learned from past experiences to current situations, but catastrophizing about what hasn't worked in the past isn't productive. By focusing on the present moment, it's much easier to think about all of the valuable possibilities of what could go right — right here, right now.

If you're struggling to find the present moment, go for a walk, be present by grounding yourself in your surroundings, and take a moment to practice gratitude.

2. Stop the inner critic

When your inner monologue is negative, don't accept self-criticism blindly. Once you identify and detect negative and critical self-talk, take a moment to consider the facts. Is that critical voice based on what's really happening around you? Try to find data to observe — an email or text from a friend or a compliment from a coworker. Stopping the inner critic is an important step in building a habit of positive self-talk.

It can also help to change the focus of your inner voice from self to others. Do something kind and thoughtful for someone else. Being kind to others is a powerful way to improve how you feel about yourself.

3. Welcome a new, positive inner voice

Now that you've identified what the inner critic sounds like and silenced it, replace the negative with positive.

Try verbalizing positive statements to yourself out loud. It may feel weird, but try talking to yourself in the third person. Remove "I" from your statements and replace them with your name. These small, but strong, moments of affirmation can catapult your motivation forward.

Continue building this positive inner voice by taking a few minutes each day to list 30 positive attributes of yourself.

About Natalie:

Natalie Zuniga is an Academic Educator at Houston Methodist in the Office of Academic Development. What she enjoys most about her role is connecting with people by having the privilege to assist in creating and teaching courses that help build the academic and professional careers of all staff. In her free time, Natalie enjoys trying new foods around town with her fiancé, cuddling with her three poodles, traveling and working out, as well as building Lego Architecture sets.

Categories: Tips to Live By
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