“You don’t have what it takes.” “You can’t succeed.” “You suck.” Not the kind of words you want to hear when you set out to achieve something. And anyone hurling them at you probably wouldn’t be your friend, so why do we speak that way to ourselves? Too often all it takes to derail us is the critical chatter that originates in our own minds.
Our actions are inspired—or stymied—by our thoughts and self-talk. Since we can get pretty used to the stream of self-limiting, critical thinking that winds its way through our consciousness, we’re often unaware of the impact it can have on our lives. If we can change what we think and say to ourselves from the negative to the positive, inspired action will follow. Here are five ways for practicing positive self-talk and setting in motion actions that will bring us greater happiness and rewards.
Pay attention to your thoughts. Try this experiment: For an entire day, be a detached observer of all the messages you send yourself. Take note of the number of times you judge yourself, indulge in self-directed criticism, or get stuck replaying gloom and doom scenarios in your mind. Once you become aware of your thought patterns, you can start to get control over them.
Challenge “I can’t.” Telling yourself “I can’t” is a surefire way to create stagnation. Holding on to this fixed belief not only prevents you from achieving the task at hand, but sets the tone of impossibility for the next challenge to come. Anytime you catch yourself saying “I can’t,” turn around and challenge your declaration with the question “Why can’t I?” The revelation that yes, actually, “I can” may surprise you.
Focus on now. Negative self-talk that begins with “I can’t” often ends up as “I’ll never be able to.” If you find yourself getting mired in negative self-talk and utterly stuck, then ask yourself “What can I do right now?” This shift from future-oriented self-critical musing to a clear prompt for immediate action is a quick way to curb gloomy notions and anxiety and create a more manageable present.
Cultivate gratitude. Every time your thoughts start running away from you with self-criticism, negativity, and fear, bring your focus back to something you’re grateful for in the present moment. So, you can turn a thought like “I’m a horrible mother for yelling at my kid” into “My kid loves me and knows that I love her beyond measure.” A state of gratitude does wonders for your psyche. Soon, you may find your self-talk shifting into alignment with contentment and joy.
Say and repeat affirmations. Create an affirmation that is believable and attainable by you and for your own good. It doesn’t mater what others say, only that you believe it. Stamping short, powerful sentences into your mind will help reprogram your thought processes. For thirty consecutive days, read your affirmations each morning upon awakening and each night just before falling asleep, times when your brain is most receptive to change.
Consider this: The thoughts that pass through your mind are transient, and not a representation of who you are. Train yourself to be cognizant of your self-talk, turn it around from negative to positive, and watch your mood, outlook, and options brighten.