Positive self-talk - Dr. Axe

You know that running dialogue you have in your head? It’s present all day, every day and can have a tremendous impact on your state-of-mind. That’s exactly why positive self-talk is so important to your mental and emotional health.

Self-talk, or your internal dialogue, can have a major impact on your self-esteem, self-value and the way you see the world. It turns out that positivity can have a tremendous impact on your health and happiness.

However, it’s not as easy as looking in the mirror reciting positive phrases. A positive internal dialogue takes practice and should be considered part of your self-care routine.

What Is Positive Self-Talk?

Self-talk is an internal narrative or inner voice that runs in your head throughout the day. You may not even realize it, but this internal dialogue talks yourthrough all of life’s experiences, from preparing a recipe or completing a mundane task to making observations about your environment and social interactions.

Self-talk is believed to be both conscious and unconscious thoughts. These thoughts can be negative or positive, and sometimes we can get into patterns of self-talk that lean in one direction.

Negative self-talk, for instance, is when we often remember negative experiences and replay negative thoughts of not being good enough over and over again. Eventually, these inner thoughts begin to change our mindsets and affect our sense of self-worth.

Positive self-talk, on the other hand, is when we are fueled by uplifting, understanding and kind thoughts. It comes from a place of self-compassion and self-love.

Research suggests that engaging in more positive self-talk can help change behaviors and combat mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. Positive self-talk for kids is also powerful and can have the same health benefits.

Positive Self-Talk Benefits/Uses

1. Reduces Stress

One major benefit of positive self-talk is its ability to help you combat difficult situations that cause stress. It keeps you in an optimistic place, allowing you to better handle stressful events or circumstances.

Studies highlight that this self-talk benefit can have a much bigger impact, as stress can increase your risk of inflammation, weakened immune system, mental health disorders and disease. Using this type of mental skill daily allows you to solve problems and cope with life’s challenges, thereby reducing stress and its health consequences.

2. Eases Anxiety

Research suggests that many forms of positive ideation can experience decreases in anxiety and worry. The key is to replace worry with a more positive inner dialogue in order to counter the feelings of anxiety.

A study evaluating the efficacy of self-talk training on junior sub-elite athletes found that it reduces anxiety and increased self-confidence, self-optimization, self-efficacy and performance. The young athletes in the experimental groups received either one week or eight weeks of self-talk intervention, which proved to enhance the psychological mindset of the participants.

3. Promotes Confidence

Research indicates that positive self-talk works to increase self-confidence, which can improve occupational performance and relationships. This has the complete opposite effect than negative inner thoughts, which can lead to self-esteem issues and a sense of worthlessness.

4. Increases Happiness

Are you still trying to figure out how to be happy? It turns out that practicing positivity increases happiness and may make you feel more energized and optimistic.

In a positive state, we are able to connection better with others and find it easier to relax.

Research suggests that seeking happiness and prioritizing positivity are linked to more frequent experiences of positive emotions.

5. Encourages Healthy Habits

Positive self-talk encourages you to choose and stick to healthy habits. The key is to make your positive thoughts outweigh your negative thoughts, allowing you to be in a healthier, more optimistic and encouraging mental space.

How will you treat your body well when you’re constantly putting your self down or thinking negatively about the world? Your inner dialogue has a trickle effect on your mood and motivation to stay healthy.

6. Reduces Negativity and Psychological Symptoms

When nearly 1,000 undergraduate students completed self-talk scales together to measure symptoms of affective disorders, the analysis found that states-of-mind-ratios and negative cognitions showed a greater association with psychological symptoms than positive cognitions.

In other words, reducing negative self-talk is able to improve psychological symptoms associated with depression, anxiety and anger.

How It Works

If you look into the psychological factors related to negative thinking, you’ll often see four categories that are used to explain how and why people engage in negative self-talk. These categories include:

  • Personalizing: Blaming yourself for everything that goes wrong.
  • Magnifying: You tend to focus only on negative factors of an experience or situation, while ignoring the positive.
  • Polarizing: You see things as “black and white,” without the gray or middle ground. This means that things are either negative or positive, good or bad.
  • Catastrophizing: You always expect the worst or a negative outcome.

Positive self-talk works by changing your internal narrative so you’re the hero instead of the villain. When you do it regularly, it begins to change your mindset and sense of self worth.

If you’re new to practicing this type of self-care, here are some steps to follow to get started:

1. Identify Negative Self-Talk Triggers

Before you can successfully counteract negative internal messages, you have to pinpoint your negative self-talk triggers. What events or situations lead to negative self-talk for you?

Maybe it’s when you’re socializing, completing a task at work, caring for your children or exercising.

It helps to write down the negative messages in your head and work on creating mantras that counteract these detrimental thoughts.

2. Focus on Self-Care

Remember that positive self-talk can impact your mental, emotional and physical health. Treat it as part of your self-care routine.

Just like eating healthy, exercising and getting plenty of rest, maintaining a positive mindset is so important to your overall health and well-being.

Along with practicing positivity, some other things you can do as part of your self-care checklist include:

  • setting aside time for fun and relaxation
  • spending time in quiet meditation or mindfulness
  • engaging in positive conversations with loved ones
  • preparing yourself healthy, satisfying meals

3. Practice Daily

It takes time and practice to drastically change your internal dialogue. Be patient with yourself, and set aside time every day to practice positive, uplifting self-talk.

Practice your positive phrases or mantras that give you pride, energy and a sense of self-worth.

4. Drop What Isn’t Working

If there’s an activity, environment or person that always leads to negative self-talk and self-doubt, it may be time to consider making a change. If it isn’t working for you, your health and your happiness, then explore other options.

This can mean surrounding yourself with positive people and keeping your distance from those who are negative. It can also mean spending your time in positive, uplifting environments instead of getting stuck in negative routines.

Examples/Mantras

There are many ways to engage in positive self-talk. Mantras are popular, for example, and there are also strategies that help people to stay in a positive, compassionate place.

Here are some examples of positive self-talk affirmations or mantras that you can work into your day to shape a positive mindset:

  • I have value and purpose.
  • I am proud of myself.
  • I am in charge of how I feel.
  • I choose happiness.
  • I am grateful.
  • I am good enough.
  • I have the power to create change.
  • I will never quit.
  • I am responsible for my health and happiness.

What other thoughts can you bring into your day to boost positive self-talk? Try these:

  • Practice gratitude: Give thanks for the little things that make you smile, bring joy or make you feel comfortable.
  • Lift others up, too: Showing kindness to others actually boosts your own happiness. Give meaningful compliments, and spread kindness whenever possible.
  • Avoid complaining: Instead of highlighting the negative in your day, mood, the weather and more, find something positive and uplifting to say in the moment.
  • Converse with positive people: Being around people who make you feel comfortable, safe and respected is important to support positive self-talk for anxiety and other issues.

Risks and Side Effects

What are the risks and side effects of positive self-talk? It’s safe to say that there aren’t any, but negative self-talk can cause real harm — leading to increased stress, anxiety, depression, poor mood, weakened relationships and more.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you should never deny the way you feel. If something is bothering you or causing you emotional pain, don’t sugarcoat it with positive self-talk.

You may have to work through these issues and the negative thoughts that surround them. If you need help, reach out to a loved one or therapist.

Sometimes you have to do some deep work to come out of a negative situation.

Conclusion

  • Is it normal to talk to yourself? Yes! We all do it all day, every day. It’s called our inner dialogue, and it’s completely normal.
  • Positive self-talk is when your inner dialogue is optimistic, encouraging and uplifting.
  • Research shows that using positive self-talk is a great way to positively impact your mood, relationships, sense of self-worth and general health.
  • The key is to outweigh negative self-talk with positive thoughts. You can do this by pinpointing what triggers negative inner thoughts and creating mantras or internal phrases to face these obstacles.