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Changing Your Negative Inner Voice Into a Positive One
A positive attitude is a powerful boost to a person’s mental and physical health. One of the first studies to consider how optimism impacts health followed more than 70,000 women from 2004 through 2014 and found “strong and statistically significant associations of increasing levels of optimism with decreasing risks of mortality” due to heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, infection and — to a smaller part — cancer.
A first step to a more positive attitude is identifying your “self-talk” and — if needed — turning the conversation to more positive territory.
What is Negative Self-Talk?
Negative self-talk is that inner voice that might be telling you that you’re not good enough, which can stop you from trying new things, taking on challenges and identifying new opportunities. It’s an “I’ve never been good at tests, so why go to college” rationale. Negative self-talk is not simply acknowledging when something doesn’t go well — that’s going to happen from time to time. What you do with that acknowledgement is what matters; you don’t want it to snowball into a constant beratement. Other types of negative self-talk include focusing on the negative aspects of a situation, automatically blaming yourself when something occurs, anticipating the worst, and thinking of all the things you should be doing and then scolding yourself for not doing them.
Take a moment to listen to your thoughts — especially those on repeat. If your inner voice is critical, there are things you can do to make it more joyful.
Nurturing Positive Conversation With Yourself
Here are some tips for changing your conversation with yourself that will lead to a more positive outlook:
- Examine — and question — the negative things you are saying to yourself. Is what you’re telling yourself really true? Could there be another way to look at the situation? Don’t worry about things that could happen but haven’t.
- If your negative thoughts are overwhelming — you’re already telling yourself you can’t change them — consider picking one topic. Maybe thoughts concerning work or perhaps what kind of parent you are. Focus on that one area and think about what kind of dialogue would be more helpful than what you’re telling yourself.
- Shift perspectives. What would your best friend say about the situation? Your spouse? If you’re not sure, talk to them about it. You’ll likely find they aren’t nearly as critical as you are.
- Take your biggest worry and lock it away — at least for a little while. Visualize yourself locking it away for a period of time. Or get literal — write it down on a piece of paper, put it in a drawer and don’t look at it for a week or a month. When you revisit the topic, there’s a good chance that the worry has minimalized or you have a different perspective regarding it.
- Actively consider things you are grateful for — you might even keep a gratitude journal. You’ll find there are many blessings in your life that you can recall on a regular basis.
- Take that negative dialogue and say it another way. For instance, switch “I’ve never done this before” into “This is the opportunity to try something new.”
- Most important of all, speak to yourself as you speak to other people. Most people are kind and polite to those around them — you deserve that same treatment. Be gentle and encouraging. When the negative chatter happens, evaluate it rationally and answer with positive affirmations.
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