What was the last thing you said to yourself? Was it positive? Negative? Empowering? Critical? Self-talk is a continuous stream of thoughts that affect how we understand and deal with experiences in our lives. The tone of the dialogue can affect our emotional health, self-image, and stress level each day.
In cognitive-behavioral therapy, we look at the dialogue to better understand how we see ourselves and our experiences. Most of these thoughts feel automatic and come from past experiences. Maybe they were useful to think at one time, but no longer serve a purpose.
- Change it up: In order to begin changing self-talk, take note of areas in your life that you feel negative about. When it comes to changing the dialogue, the first step is awareness. Take a look at the dialogue’s tone. Each day, write down a common thought you had about a difficult situation.
- Evaluate: After writing your thought down, evaluate it. Would you say that thought to a friend or loved one? We have a choice about what we say to ourselves… it just may take some practice.
- Recreate: Next, we need to recreate the dialogue. Try finding another, more positive way to understand a situation. For instance, “I can’t handle this” can change to “I am doing the best I can with what I have.” Taking a moment to choose a different way to respond boosts our resilience to stressful situations. That can lower cortisol (the stress hormone) in our body. A positive perspective will not change a situation, but is a powerful coping technique to deal with stress.
We are saying things to ourselves continuously each day. Take a moment to listen, and remember that you have the ability to choose. As always, start small. Notice one or two thoughts that feel familiar and evaluate how that thought helps or hurts you. Each decision to view things more positively is a building block to recreating our dialogue.