In a given day, how would you describe the types of thoughts you have about yourself?
Positive and encouraging?
Neutral-simply narrating for example-to-do lists and tasks?
Negative and judgemental, filled with fear, anger and worry?
Perhaps a combination of all of the above?
Have you ever stopped and noticed the type of thoughts you have about yourself?
The reality is, we often say things to ourselves we would likely never say out loud or say to someone else.
And likely, many of us would be horrified if others could hear what we say to ourselves.
While our mind can be our greatest asset, it can also be our greatest challenge-especially when it comes to negative self-talk.
Our habits of negative self-talk can take up space like an unwelcome guest, so much so that we get so used to the negative chatter, seldom censoring or challenging negative self-talk.
And the impact is profound.
Negative self-talk takes an emotional toll on our well-being, decreasing productivity, energy, and happiness.
It adds stress to our lives, brings our mood states to a negative place and is the perfect environment to grow-irritability, depression, and insecurity to name a few.
Thoughts are powerful, and they are readily available, often believable, and take up space without much intention.
Cognitive psychologists refer to such thoughts as automatic thoughts-thoughts that appear without much effort.
And many times these automatic thoughts are not harmful, more like observations and commentary on our day.
But for many, automatic thoughts can be negative, judgemental and increase stress, negative feelings and behaviors.
Here are seven ways to be encouraging to yourself not only with your thoughts but also with your actions.
1.Awareness is Key. Pay attention to your self-talk. In any given day, we have thousands of thoughts. How many of those thoughts are judgmental, self-deprecating or mean? How many of those would you be horrified if family and friends heard what you say to yourself? Do you notice a pattern to the negative self-talk? For example, is your negative self-talk about your body, what you do or not do during the day? Comparing yourself to others? What you think you should be doing but are not? Or the negative self-talk about the way you parent? Pay attention to see if you can categorize or see a trend in the type of thoughts you have.
2. Challenge Negative Thinking. A great way to challenge negative thinking is to pause for a minute and ask: Is this thought true? If a friend was in a similar situation would I think this about them? What if a friend came to me and said the same exact thought-what would I tell them? Often we are kinder and more compassionate to others than we are to ourselves. Give yourself the same love and patience you give to others to you! Read more about how to challenge negative thinking here: The Voices in Your Head: 14 Ways to Manage Negative Thinking.
3. Watch Thoughts in Absolutes. Nothing is ever one way, it may feel like that at the moment, but chances are, you may be so overwhelmed by a situation, you believe your thoughts. For example, if you’re having a terrible day parenting, instead of having thoughts in absolutes-shift thinking from global description-always and forever, to situational. If you think: I’m a horrible mom, nothing I do is effective, other moms make this look easy, its impossible for me! This is an example of thinking in absolutes. Instead, shift into more compassionate and situational thinking. For example: Right now I am feeling ineffective. Every parent at some point has moments like this. I need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and understand this moment and frustration will pass. I’ve had moments where I know I do great parenting, right now feels awful but it will pass. Can you see the difference how talking in absolutes is very different from situational self-talk?
4. Recall Positive Memories. Did you know, the types of thoughts you have will directly influence your mood state? For example, if you have negative thoughts, these thoughts will impact how you feel. And the memories you recall will reflect the type of thoughts you have ( positive, negative or neutral). So if you feel sad, stressed or angry, chances are the memories you recall will be more sad, stressed and angry. Over-ride negative thinking by intentionally thinking about positive memories. Having a terrible parenting moment? Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and think of a loving moment between you and your child. If you have a tough time, look at some photos with positive memories to help you. It’s all about being able to create perspective in moments of stress!
5. Highlight Your Strengths. Often when we are feeling discouraged, it’s easy to focus on the things that are not going well. Shift this discouraging mindset by listing five core strengths you possess. If this feels daunting, list five obstacles in your life you have overcome and the traits you used to get there. Read and re-read for perspective.
6. Actively Shift Your Mood. When you are in a tough emotional and mental place you may need to do something active to feel better. Listening to music that you enjoy can elevate your mood as well as going for a walk or doing something physical can help you shift your mood to a positive emotional and mental state.
7. Make time for Self-Care. Taking care of yourself is an excellent way to create a foundation of solid mental, physical and emotional well-being. Be sure to put yourself on the priority list and make time for things that bring you joy and happiness and reduce stress! Want to learn more about self-care and well-being? Take this quiz: How is Your Well-Being and Self-Care? for an assessment of how you are taking care of yourself and ideas on how to improve.
© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2018