When it comes to the worst things for our mental health, constant negativity is definitely one of them, especially when it comes to thoughts about yourself. We all have our moments of feeling down on ourselves, but to improve our mental wellbeing, we need to work on ways to end negative self-talk. For others to think positively about us, we need to think good things about ourselves, and diminishing unhealthy and unproductive thoughts about ourselves can help us improve our self-esteem, which can only lead to good outcomes.
"Negative self-talk feeds anxiety and depression," says Dr. Natalie Dattilo, Clinical & Health Psychologist with IU Health over email. "When the way we talk to ourselves is shaming, overly critical, judgmental, or punishing, it diminishes our self-confidence, our self-worth, and our ability to make positive changes in our life."
Positive thinking doesn't mean you always think happy thoughts, but it means responding to negative emotion in a productive and healthy way. The more you start to think that way, the more these types of thoughts become automatic, which helps not only fight off anxiety and depression, but improve your physical health, increase your lifespan, and diminish stress, according to Mayo Clinic. If you feel like your mindset isn't positive enough and you're constantly bringing yourself down, consider these 11 ways to end all of that negative self-talk.
1. Track Your Thoughts
"The first step when it comes to changing anything is becoming more aware of the problem," says Dattilo. "Increased self-awareness allows you to pay closer attention to your negative self-talk, catch yourself 'in the act' sooner, and put those thoughts 'on trial,' (i.e., challenge the accuracy of your nagging inner critic). The best way to do this is to write them down on a piece of paper or in a journal and keep track of the situations that trigger you."
2. Be Objective
"Research has shown that when you’re feeling bad and you force yourself to turn it into something positive, you often end up feeling worse," says Dattilo. "Our goal is to find a more neutral or more helpful statement. For example, instead of 'I’m so lazy – why can’t I get to the gym every day like I should?' try: “I would love to get to the gym every day, but there are simply not enough hours, and I simply don’t have the energy. I will get there as often as I can.”
3. Be Kind To Yourself
Have some compassion for yourself, and try to imagine whether your best friend would ever say these things to you. "Would you honestly let anybody else talk to you that way?" says Dattilo. "Would you ever say that to someone you love or care about? If not, why the double standard?"
4. Keep A Gratitude List
"Sometimes when we are down on ourselves, the world seems pretty grim," says Dr. Kathy Gruver, PhD, LMT, CHt over email. "It does become cyclical thinking. If you can stop for a moment and look at what you're grateful for, what is positive in your life can change how you feel. It can be as simple as looking around you and acknowledging the beauty." Regularly expressing your gratitude can help you better deal with adversity and even improve your relationship with others, according to Harvard Health.
5. Practice Affirmations
"If you find yourself engaging in negative self talk sometimes it's easier to change that thought than to stop thinking it," says Gruver. "Using affirmations is a fabulous way to do that. The key to affirmations is to keep them short, in the present, and positive. Saying something like 'I am healthy and well' or 'I am beautiful and loved' or 'I'm surrounded by loving and supportive friends.'"
Mindfulness meditation is a great way to relieve stress, anxiety, and depressive thoughts, according to multiple studies, and managing your emotions can help you clear the way to think more objectively about yourself. "Meditation helps train us to be in the present moment and consciously aware of what is happening in our bodies and minds," says Gruver. "Sometimes, it is simply that awareness of negativity helps us change it to the positive."
7. Reach Out
Don't be afraid to turn to a friend or someone you trust when you're having a weak moment. "Sharing our feelings of embarrassment, disappointment, or frustration can help us recognize whether the things we are saying to ourselves are helpful or unhelpful – especially if the goal is to feel better," says Dattilo. "Sometimes saying things out loud instead of keeping them locked up inside gives us the ability to see how unfair and unnecessary our comments are."
8. Don't Spin The Truth
We have a tendency to look for information in our environment to confirm our beliefs, for better or for worse. If we have a negative view of ourselves, we tend to only see the things that support our case, and if they don’t, we tend to 'spin' the facts until they do. Try comparing your 'facts' and 'opinions.' Ask yourself, 'Would others agree with my conclusion?'”
9. Keep A Positive Traits List
Similar to the gratitude list, this is an opportunity for you to look at yourself and inside yourself for those positive things," says Gruver. "Maybe you have a good sense of humor, strong fingernails, or silky hair. Maybe your smile lights up the room and the sound of your singing voice brings others to a positive place. We have a choice as to where we put our focus."
10. Give Your Critic A Different Name
Separate yourself from that inner voice in your head that is bringing you down. Give him or her a name, and separate them from your identity. "Sometimes I have my patients 'break up' with themselves once they realize how unkind (or even abusive) their self-talk can be," says Dattilo.
11. Be Willing To Be Imperfect
"It’s a challenge, but it can help if you accept that you are human and cut yourself some slack," says Dattilo. "It can be so liberating to realize you don’t have to be perfect and to stop holding yourself to unrealistically high standards."
A shift in overall thinking takes some times, but wanting to end that negative train of thinking is the first step to better self-esteem and a clearer head.
Images: Pixabay (12); Bustle