Self-talk is an inner voice you hear throughout the day. Often a tool used to interpret daily experiences, it combines conscious and unconscious thoughts and beliefs with the average person having up to 70,000 thoughts a day. Even though people claim to hold themselves in high regard, the thoughts that spontaneously occur to them—their “mental chatter,” so to speak—is mostly (up to 70%) negative.
Barbara Fredrickson conducted a study into how positive and negative emotions affect you. Participants were shown images that resembled anger and joy and were then asked to record their feelings. Those shown images of anger wrote the least and those shown images of joy wrote down significantly more, emphasising how experiences of either emotion affect you very differently.
We all experience negative self-talk at times, which can narrow your thought process and sense of possibility, but to encourage more positive emotions it’s about opening your mind to look at situations from different perspectives, which in turn will help to reduce anxiety levels and improve your overall mentality.
Focus on good memories, however small
You’re going to encounter obstacles throughout the day—there’s no such thing as a perfect day. However, when you feel negative thoughts creeping into your mind, combat them quickly with good memories or the good things in your life. For example, if you are stuck on the train or in traffic, think about how you now have extra time to listen to the rest of your favourite podcast. If your friend has just let you down, think back to all the good memories you have shared together, or start planning all the things you can tick of your to do list now you have some extra time.
Cognitive reframing is a psychological technique that consists of identifying and then disputing irrational or maladaptive thoughts. This is used by therapists to help clients look at situations from different perspectives to encourage you to think of a situation and give it a different meaning by asking yourself rational questions, such as “is there another way I can think about this?” or “what are three other possible reasons this could have happened?”
Automatic and Recurring Thoughts
Your brain fools you into thinking that your negative thoughts are accurate and logical, but, in reality, they serve only to reinforce negative thinking and emotions. The automatic and recurring thoughts technique focuses on the thoughts we experience often but want to change, e.g. “why do I always struggle?” or “I can’t ever do anything right.”
The technique encourages you to find 10 alternatives to your negative thoughts so when a recurring thought pops into your head, try asking yourself:
- Is this thought true?
- Does having this thought serve me?
- Is there another explanation or another way of looking at things?
- What advice would I give someone else who had this thought?
Laughter is good for your health
As simple as it sounds, being able to look for potential humour in a negative situation will reduces stress and brighten your outlook. Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. It also boosts the immune system and decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
One study event found that laughing for 10 to 15 minutes a day can burn approximately 40 calories.
Changing your way of thinking won’t happen over-night but surrounding yourself with positive people will contribute to changing your way of thinking. Sometimes you simply need to talk it out with a trusted friend or family member to be able to think more clearly. If you find yourself struggling to refrain from negative self-talk, reach out to someone in your network that you can rely on offering positive words of encouragement.
Practising any of the above positive thinking techniques will play a simply role in improving your mindset by alleviating additional stress and contributing to better well-being. Look forward and remember that tomorrow is a new day.