The more man meditates upon good thoughts the better will be his world and the world at large – Confucius
Confucius quite rightly pointed out that what we think about affects our whole world. Our thoughts are directly affected by our self-talk and we all talk to ourselves, all the time. When the voice inside our head is being kind and constructive we feel good, but what about when it is critical, judgmental and downright nasty? It goes without saying that we start to feel bad. And when we feel bad we often reach for something outside ourselves to make us feel better. This can take the form of anything from overeating to overspending.
So what can we do to minimise this negative self-talk so we can feel better?
- Listen to the voice
Stop and take notice. Listen to your negative self-talk and identity where it’s coming from. You might also want to try to identify whose voice it is. Is it yours, your parent’s, your spouse’s or your boss’s?
- Is it valid?
Ask yourself if what you are saying to yourself is actually valid. Sometimes we say things to ourselves that do need to be said, but it is the way we say it that causes the bad feelings. Ask yourself how you would feel if a stranger said those things to you in that same tone of voice. How would you feel? My guess is you would be quite upset! So is it really OK to speak to yourself that way?
If you decide it is valid, try changing the tone of voice to make it kinder and notice how different it feels. It may be that it becomes useful self-talk at that point.
- Turn it down!
If your negative self-talk is not valid, try turning down the volume until it completely disappears then replace it with some positive self-talk. For example, you may have been asking yourself, ‘How could I have been so stupid?’ This could be changed to ‘I can learn from this and make sure I don’t do it again.’
- Change the tempo
Try changing the speed of your self-talk voice. You can either make it really slow or speed it up – do this to an extreme extent so that you either can’t understand the message any more or until it sounds ridiculous.
- Change the voice
Change the voice of your self-talk to a cartoon character. How would it sound as Homer Simpson, Fred Flintstone or Donald Duck? Have some fun trying different characters. The sillier it sounds the better you will start to feel. And of course the better you feel the more positive your thoughts will be.