Allowing negative and often extreme words into your mind, and the correspondent feelings to grow in you will only weaken your ability to look at situations objectively. When in fact, perhaps you weren't even that much in love with your partner, or the grade or promotion aren’t that much of a big deal.
If you pay attention to your thoughts, you can start recognising that in your bad days your self-talk is probably filled with negative adjectives, such as “ugly”, “poor”, “hopeless”, “lonely”, “wrong” and so on.
While on the good days your mind is populated with positive words, such as “beautiful”, “lovely”, “loved”, “happy”, or “right”, for example.
Whatever you tell yourself about who you are and the experience of life that you’re living is strengthening your perceptions and, in turn, impacting your feelings and motivating your actions.
Studies have shown that the language people use to refer to themselves and the events in their life highly influence how they think, feel and behave(1).
Using kind self-talk is scientifically proven to help you regulate your emotions and stress.
Have you ever noticed which words you use most often to describe yourself and your life?
What if you think of particular situations, like when you look at yourself in the mirror, or when you’re about to have a social meeting?
You might not realise (yet), but the way you feel about yourself and your life is very much determined by the thoughts you choose to have and allow your mind to dwell on.
For example, let's say you’re getting ready to a party. If you look at yourself in the mirror and use words such as “fat”, “ugly”, or “old”, to describe yourself you’ll be damaging your self-esteem, and increasing your stress levels about the event. While if the words “beautiful” and “elegant” are present in your mind, you’ll feel better in your own skin and therefore face the social occasion in a much more relaxed way.
This is not only true in rare situations, but will continuously contribute to shaping your mind into a having a more positive approach to life, in general.
Little by little, thought by thought, we can shape our mind to have a positive outlook on life.
This is not only important regarding mental health but also regarding overall health.
For psychologist David Sarwer, a specialist in eating disorders, the path to a healthier body starts with a healthier self-talk. So he starts his treatments with a mirror, coaching his patients to start looking and talking about their bodies in a gentler and kinder way(2).
Self-talk can shape your mind, and your mind can shape your life.
Just like cultural biases, opinions and assumptions strongly influence sensory perceptions. Like the intensity of pain, or whether a taste is pleasing or foul, so can self-talk affect the physiology of perception(2).
In this way, we can use self-talk to our advantage, to remodel our internal beliefs. And not only boost our confidence, but also help with everyday emotional regulation, stress management and healthier behavioural choices.
Even when no one else is listening, you’re listening and what to hear from yourself counts.
Start paying more attention to what you say to yourself in your internal chatter, and start choosing more positive or neutral words to describe yourself and your experiences.
If you want to practice this, here’s an exercise you can do: get a piece of paper and draw two columns. In the first column, write down all the words you usually use to describe yourself and your life. And in the second column, write down a list of positive statements about yourself and your life. Not only the second column will be much more pleasant to write, but it will also be helping your mind to find those words in future situations.
The more you practice finding positive or neutral adjectives to describe yourself and the experiences you are living, the easily it will be to see your life positively.
Let’s say that every time you make a mistake you say to yourself “I’m such a loser; only losers do mistakes like this” why not say instead “this was not easy; I’ll try to be more attentive next time”. Or if your sweetheart breaks up with you, instead of talking to yourself as “you’re so useless; you’ll never find someone who loves you”, why not say: “I’m lovable and independent and, one day, I’ll find the right partner”.
In this way, your mind will become more resilient to stress and more content, impacting how you perceive and navigate through life, helping you to avoid the storms and keep sailing in the sun.
(1) Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Self-Talk as a Regulatory Mechanism: How You Do It Matters