In the previous module we looked at the three different types of self-talk, positive, negative and neutral and saw that these could be broken down into various components.
In this module we start to explore how you can start changing your self-talk, beginning with a three-stage process.
Improving your Self-Talk
In order to make your self-talk much more effective, I suggest you use this three-step guide consisting of:
- Awareness – Be aware & monitor your self-talk
- Challenge it, and
- Change it
As with most programmes in the MYND-App and all aspects of your personal development and growth, the starting point has to be a conscious and dedicated awareness of where you are now.
Your starting point in improving your self-talk must be:
- Being aware of, and monitoring your language
Start by monitoring the self-talk you use and notice your patterns.
You can do this by making it important to monitor what you’re saying to yourself – even use a journal to record some of your self-talk, or as a minimum at the end of a session or the day try and recall what you said to yourself at critical times, how it made you feel and what happened as a consequence.
Because we don’t always consciously take note of what we’re saying, the first step is to become more aware. It’s like having the TV or radio on in the background if you’re not consciously listening you might not notice even though the messages are there.
If you took the time to pay attention, you might find that what the person was saying was irrelevant or even upsetting, in which case you might change the channel –
you might have the same channel on another time and if similar messages were repeated you end up not tuning in again to that channel. And that’s something I’ll teach you about your own negative self-talk –how to change the channel.
Follow on from your awareness by actually monitoring how positive or negative your self-talk is. A good indicator is to make a note of whether or not you’d appreciate that same comment or thought coming from someone else– so talk such as
“Why am an idiot” or “I couldn’t do that”
wouldn’t be appreciated coming from others –
yet we might talk to ourselves in that way …and do it a lot.
You’ll probably surprise yourself at the ratio of positive and negative thoughts and self-talk, with negative ones outweighing the positive.
Remember, the things you say to yourself will affect how you feel and what you do – that’s why they’re so important to monitor
Research has shown that performers using a log-book to monitor the content of their self-talk became more aware of how much negative self-talk they used and crucially the consequences of this.
By monitoring and logging your thoughts and comments, this helps the process of changing your talk into something that will be more useful to you. And we’ve seen the incredible benefits this brings.
2 Challenge it!
When you find your self-talk is self-critical or even disrespectful, think of it as a mischievous voice that you can challenge – and start to question whether that voice and comment is true – challenge it…argue against it…disagree with it…
In the following modules, I’ll give you plenty of examples of how to do this, depending on what type of things you say to yourself. For now, it’s probably worth challenging any critical statement you make to yourself.
and finally, change It!
This, in many respects, is the hardest part – in particular for long-held beliefs. As we’ve seen, we’re creatures of habits, and longheld patterns take a conscious willingness and some dedicated effort to change.
We’ll see in the following modules that even our most deep-rooted negative and critical beliefs have very little or no foundation at all.
Changing that talk, like all things worthwhile, will take practice to perfect. For example, if you tend to tell yourself –
“I’ll never be able to do this”
you might change that to –
“is there anything I can do that can help me to be able to do this”
You then move from a negative state with nowhere to go to a motivated state to seek a solution.
Here are some other techniques you might include…
Sometimes rather than challenging the talk, you might need to simply stop it and replace it with something else.
Feelings of jealousy are one such thought that can lead to a downward spiral of negative images and feelings, and most are based on irrational beliefs – here it might be more effective to tell yourself
‘STOP – I’m not even going there’
and replace the thought or talk with an image of something you really like.
Start to think of that instead – whether it’s sitting in the sun on a beach or being somewhere else with someone whose company you enjoy.
You’ll benefit from using that as your go-to place when you start having thoughts you know will upset you.
Another change strategy is
Use better or milder language
Using this technique, you learn to change your talk to something milder.
I used to be prone to saying “I hate this..” which made me feel quite negative and lowered my mood. I now use words like
“I don’t enjoy this…or“I prefer doing other things than this’
and as a consequence, I actually feel much better in myself, just by lowering the negativity a few notches. The sentiment is the same but I feel better and I remind myself of this any time my thought process starts with “I hate….whatever…”
Here are a few other examples…
Nurses might refer to discomfort rather pain when talking to patients
One of my favourites is talking about problems as challenges. A problem might lead to not doing anything or approaching the situation in a negative frame of mind – whereas a challenge always inspires me to overcome it.
Another way to improve your talk is to:
Find the positive in negative situations
In this case, we literally look for the positive in anything that goes wrong –
A canceled train, for example, that on occasion would get you angry and annoyed with the train companies and frustrated that you’re going to be late home, could be an opportunity to read another chapter of that book you’ve been trying to finish.
It could also be an opportunity to catch up with a few old friends on the phone.
Either way, you’ll feel better about a situation that could otherwise get you frustrated or even angry. Neither reaction is great for your health and well-being, particularly if it’s typical for you.
Another way to help your change talk is to change self-limiting statements to questions.
So a thought such as – “That’s impossible I’ll never be able to do that” (a statement) could change into
“What’s the first thing I can do to get this started”? Or
“what do I need to do to be able to get this done”?
Effective questions that are solution-focused and motivating are a great tool to have in your repertoire and certainly trump negative statements that might simply stop you in your tracks.
So to Summarise
In this module, we explored a three-stage approach to starting to change your self-talk – 1. awareness & monitoring, 2. challenging it and 3. changing it.
We then looked at a number of techniques you could use to try to change the negative self-talk, including
a thought-stopping technique,
the use of milder language,
finding negatives into positive and
In the next module
We’ll explore more ways in which you can improve your awareness and use of your self-talk. In particular the relationship between self-talk and self-confidence.
Your MYND Activity today
Develop your three-point strategy for your self-talk – Awareness, challenge it and change it, using some of the techniques we described including
the use of milder language,
finding the positive in negative situations
and changing negative statements into solutions focussed questions