How To Stop Negative Self-Talk, According To Experts
Everyone has an inner critic. It's that little voice in your head that told you not to buy that dress because the color just didn't look right on you, even though you actually looked bangin' in it. Or that voice that said not to apply for that job because there's no way you'd ever get called for an interview, even though you knew you were fully qualified for it. But, for some people, that inner critic can get overwhelmingly loud, becoming a cycle of negative self-talk that can cause a significant amount of stress and anxiety.
Self-talk is the unspoken thoughts in your head, and a lot of the time self-talk is happening automatically without you knowing it, according to Mayo clinic. When self-talk becomes more negative than positive, that can really affect your health, says Mayo Clinic, increasing your likelihood for depression and stress. Negative self-talk can take on a lot of forms, but the themes are typically the same: the thoughts limit a person's ability to make positive changes in their life, according to VeryWellMind. But there are a lot of ways to stop negative self-talk so you can form more positive thought patterns so you have a healthier relationship with that inner critic. Here are 11 tricks from experts to stop negative self-talk in its tracks.
1. Evaluate Your Thoughts
Sometimes you might not even realize you're thinking negative thoughts, so the Mayo Clinics recommends trying to take a few moments every day to evaluate what you're thinking. If you realize your thoughts are mainly negative, says Mayo Clinic, try to find ways to turn them into more positive thoughts.
2. Give Your Inner Critic A Name
Negative self-talk typically comes from outside influences you've internalized, so to separate it from your authentic self, you can give it a name, according to Psychology Today. By giving it a name, says Psychology Today, you're freeing yourself from its influence and separating it from your own identity. Any name will do, even something silly, like Jerk Face or Inner A-hole.
3. Keep A Written Log Of Your Thoughts
Another way to start to recognize negative self-talk is by keeping a written log of your negative thoughts, Dr. Sherry Benton, psychologist and founder of Tao Connect, tells Bustle. You can use a small notebook or even the notes app on your phone to jot down the situation and your negative thoughts, says Psychology Today, such as, "got up, late meeting with boss, fight with mom, lunch choices" and what your thoughts were, like, "I'm lazy, I'm a bad employee, I'm not a good daughter, I have no self-control." Being more aware of how you're talking to yourself will give you the power to stand up to your own negative voice.
4. Approach Your Thoughts With Curiosity
Shainna Ali, licensed licensed mental health counselor and owner of Integrated Counseling Solutions, tells Bustle that approaching negative thoughts with curiosity can be helpful. Ali recommends asking yourself questions like "how did I let that thought pass by so easily?"; "where does [this thought] come from?"; "what past experiences do I have that foster that thought?; or what evidence do I have that that thought is rational?" Approaching negative self-talk with curiosity can help you start to see those thoughts from a more positive perspective.
5. Let The Thoughts Drift Through You
Instead of focusing on the negative thought, Dr. Benton recommends letting it drift through you. You can create even more distance from the thought, says Dr. Benton, by changing your language from, "I am unworthy and unlovable" to "I am having the thought that I am unworthy and unlovable." Dr. Benton says detaching yourself from negative thoughts can decrease their power over your mood.
6. Develop Something To Replace Your Thoughts With
Ali tells Bustle you can try to develop something to replace the negative thoughts with. Try flipping the negative thought with a positive thought, such as "I am unworthy" with "I am worthy." If that feels phony or uncomfortable, Ali says you can acknowledge a gracious gap in between by using "but" or "and" statements. For example, "I might struggle with public speaking, but I'm doing my best to prepare for the speech I have coming up on Friday." This gracious gap allows you to give yourself some compassion and kindness.
7. Reframe Your Thoughts
If flipping your negative thoughts doesn't work for you, try reframing your thoughts using statements based on facts, says Inc. Let's say your boss sends you an email stating she needs to talk to you, says Inc., and your first thought is you're going to get fired. Try to reframe that negative thought with fact-based statements on why your boss might want to talk to you, like she might have a question on a report you did, she might need to reschedule a meeting, or she might need your input on something she's working on.
8. Focus On Gratitude
Try to focus one the things you're grateful for in your life, says Dr. Benton, by making a gratitude list of three or four things every day. Dr. Benton tells Bustle they can be really small things, too, like being grateful for the person who picks up your trash every week, or the fact that it's particularly warm this week. Dr. Benton says gratitude lists can actually change the neural connections in your brain and increase your positive and affirming thoughts.
9. Ask Yourself If Your Thoughts Are Helping You
When you experience negative self-talk, ask yourself if those thoughts are making you feel good or if they are helping you achieve your goals, says Psych Central. If the way you're thinking isn't making you feel good, Psych Central says you should ask yourself what you can do to change that. How can you change your thoughts so they serve you better? Asking yourself these questions can challenge the negative self-talk when it happens.
10. Put Your Thoughts In Perspective
Sometimes it's actually good to remind yourself you're going to be OK if you get fired or you don't get your dream job, according to Inc. Worrying about the "what if's" without thinking through the solutions can cause a lot of anxiety, so sometimes you just need to meet that kind of negative self-talk head-on, says Inc. The key is to work your way back to a more positive state of mind by telling yourself there are solutions to all those negative scenarios you're worrying about.
11. Replace Your Inner Critic
You can talk back to your inner critic and tell them to buzz off, says Psychology Today, but why give them the time of day? Instead, says Psychology Today, as you learn to quiet that inner critic, grow a new inner voice that serves as a strong and loving ally for you. This voice will notice the good things about you and will hold that negative voice at bay.
Remember, a certain amount of negative self-talk is OK. Life isn't all sunshine and rainbows, so it makes sense to feel some negativity sometimes. As long as the negative thoughts don't overrun the positive ones, you won't give your inner critic any more power over you.