Positive inner dialogue is critical for feelings of wellbeing.
Source: Dana Tentis/Pixabay
Everyone has an inner dialogue, but the way we speak to and about ourselves can sometimes be negative, even abusive. Especially in uncertain times, how we talk to ourselves can improve or destroy our day. Below are seven ways to improve your self-talk and in doing so, enhance your overall feelings of well-being and optimism about life.
Don’t Talk About My Friend Like That
A man once said to his friend who was complaining and being very hard on herself, “Don’t talk about my friend like that!” What a wonderful reminder to be kind in our self-talk. Sometimes, we don’t notice our negativity or the way we trash-talk ourselves. The first step to improving our inner dialogue is to notice our negativity and stop ourselves when we are being unfair or unkind. Most of us would not speak about our enemies in the distasteful terms we describe ourselves. Notice that tendency so that you can put an end to it.
Decades of research have established the positive impact of various types of breathing on overall mental health. When you notice that you are speaking unkindly to yourself, stop and make time to do even two minutes of concentrated breathing. Whatever type of breathing you choose, the disruption of your thought patterns will help you to change your mental processes, and intentional breathing will have a positive physical impact on your well-being. You may also feel gratitude, for breathing is perhaps the most fundamental aspect of life, and not everyone has the privilege of being able to breathe today.
Especially for those who are experiencing depression or other mental health problems, acknowledging all the small things we have to be grateful for can add up to a genuine mental lift. Think of the things you might accomplish in a day: making the bed, taking a shower, walking the dog. That may not seem like much, but those are indisputable accomplishments when you are unwell or feeling harried. Remember, too, any gifts given by others: a text to check in, a door held open, a smile from a stranger. If we are attentive to the little things, we may find that life is on balance a bit more positive than we tell ourselves.
Change Your Focus
Gratitude lists are only one way to pay attention to and emphasize what’s going well. Spend time each day looking for the positive or emphasizing activities that create personal well-being. If you are uplifted by starting your day on the balcony drinking tea and watching the birds, carve out time in your day to do that. Make it a priority. If your dog looks at you lovingly, notice that and remind yourself that this happens often. Focus on the things that make your heart delight.
Practice Loving kindness
Negative self-talk underscores our worst attributes and tells us that we are sub-par human beings. Loving kindness recognizes our positive attributes, safety, generosity, connection, and more. The simplest way to practice loving kindness is to notice what is good in ourselves. This can sometimes come out in the form of a personal prayer. “I appreciate that I am safe and have a healthy breakfast in front of me.” “I am grateful for my connection to my friend Shirley and that I was able to show up for her when she needed help with her car today.” Focusing on what is good in us, sharing that, and acknowledging the bright side of who we are can improve our self-talk and sense of optimism about life.
Feel Your Feelings
Life sometimes offers up horrible experiences. People die. We lose jobs we enjoy. We experience unrequited love. We are betrayed by people we trusted. Grief, loss, sadness—all feelings must be given room for expression—or they begin to fester and create negative inner dialogue and actions. It’s OK to feel anger and pain. Allow yourself the freedom to express those feelings with people you can trust simply to be with you. Expressing emotion, as uncomfortable as that may be, allows those feelings to pass through so that you can move on and be present in your life for the good that will come.
Change Your Story
The stories we tell ourselves about our lives frame our worldview. If you tell yourself that your job or partner are bad or drain you or are not what you deserve, then you will experience the negativity that you’ve set up for yourself. If you believe that a situation or relationship is not what you need, change it. You need not be a victim.
If your situation is not genuinely difficult but you frame it that way to allow yourself to feel helpless, you have the ability to change your life by changing the way you see the world. Go back to that gratitude list and the loving kindness you share with yourself. Reframe your experience. As you see your life from a more positive perspective, your worldview and self-talk will begin to be increasingly positive too. You don’t have to lie to yourself. Bad things happen to good people. But you can emphasize the good so that you use your inner dialogue to bolster yourself in good times and bad.