Here's How To Stop Negative Self-Talk
Have you ever had a nagging voice in your head that you couldn’t seem to free yourself from? Did it feel as though this voice was completely out of your control? If so, don't worry because you're not alone.
On a daily basis, we have thousands of thoughts. However, danger occurs when the majority of those thoughts are negative. As that voice in your head turns negative, not only will your thoughts darken but your emotions will as well.
Thoughts drive feelings, so as you think negatively, self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and other depressive feelings will come over you. Which is why, learning how to control that voice (known as your self-talk) is vital.
What Is Self-Talk
Every day there are thousands upon thousands of thoughts running through your mind. When discussing self-talk, what’s being referred to are the thoughts you think targeted directly towards yourself.
You know, that voice in your head that tells you how stupid you are or motivates you by telling you you’ve got this. That’s self-talk. It’s almost like a conversation you have with yourself. Though, for the most part, the conversation is taking place within your mind.
However, there are times when self-talk happens out loud. This can be talking to yourself in the mirror before you go to bed, or pushing yourself through a tough workout, exclaiming, “Come on, one more rep.”
Very simply, self-talk is you speaking to yourself. Either in your mind or out loud.
But this then raises the question, is your self-talk within your control?
Do You Have Control Over Your Self-Talk?
The reason this question comes up is because of the often uncontrollable nature of our thoughts. Has it ever felt like someone turned your mind on repeat? Thoughts just keep flying through your head unregulated and uncontrolled. This is especially troublesome and noticeable when the thoughts are negative.
Negative thoughts take many forms. They include thoughts of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, or anything else that results in a negative feeling. When you’re unable to turn off such thoughts, it can truly feel as though your self-talk is not under your control.
Luckily, that’s not the case. When it comes to self-talk, a lot of training is involved. When you’re unaware of the way you’re speaking to yourself, of course it will feel as though it’s uncontrollable.
But you must realize, when you’re not actively working to speak a certain way to yourself, your mind is running on autopilot. Repeating phrases you’ve trained within your mind over the years.
So in that respect, you’ve controlled your self-talk through years of training. Even if you were unaware of what you were doing. This control takes on a whole new form once you put into practice what you’ll learn in a few moments.
The important piece to understand is that no matter how uncontrollable your self-talk may seem right now, you do have control over the way you speak to yourself.
"Negative thoughts take many forms. They include thoughts of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, or anything else that results in a negative feeling. When you’re unable to turn off such thoughts, it can truly feel as though your self-talk is not under your control."
The Problem With Trying To Force Out Negative Thoughts
If you are experiencing negative self-talk or it’s something you’ve dealt with in the past, I can bet you’ve heard the phrase “Just stop thinking that way,” or something along those lines.
What great advice that is, as though you haven’t been trying to stop your negative thinking up to this point. However, my guess is you have tried. Especially when someone tells you that. It’s not that you’re asking the negative self-talk to stay. You’re trying your hardest to force it to go away.
But what if you actually are inviting it to stay?
I know it may sound strange, but the very act of attempting to force negative thoughts to go away is in fact inviting them to stay. It all has to do with focus.
Our attention does not understand negating words. For example, if I tell myself that I don’t want to think about my dog, what do you think is going to happen? A picture of my dog, as clear as if he were sitting next to me, will stand out in my mind.
But why is this? I told myself I didn’t want to think about my dog. Why is it that now he’s all I can see? Well, this example shows how our attention works.
Whether I say I do or don’t want to focus on my dog makes little difference. What’s important is in that moment, I am already thinking about my dog. The same holds true for your thoughts.
As you seek to force out negative thoughts, what are you focusing on? Your negative thoughts. Therefore, they are on your mind. Even though you are repeatedly telling yourself not to focus on them, your attention is still fixed on that negative self-talk.
To make matters worse, in your attempt to free yourself from such thoughts, intense emotions are involved. You know how terribly negative self-talk makes you feel. As a result, you fear experiencing similar thoughts in the future.
So, if you want to stop negative self-talk, and attempting to do so by forcing the thoughts out of your head only worsens the problem, what solution is there?
The Power Of Substitution
To free yourself from negative self-talk, you must shift your perspective. Your goal should no longer be to stop this form of thought. Rather, your aim needs to be to develop a completely different way of thinking.
What this means is, whenever you experience negative self-talk, you are no longer going to seek a way to rid yourself of these thoughts. Instead, you will simply substitute one thought for another.
You are making use of the power of focus, giving your attention to something more positive, while also reclaiming control over your mind.
When you feel as though you can’t rid yourself of negative thoughts, it seems your mind is completely out of your control. But what you realize once you use substitution is, you have control over the next thought you have.
In order to make use of this practice, you need to know what you typically say to yourself along with a phrase you choose to use as a substitute.
"To free yourself from negative self-talk, you must shift your perspective. Your goal should no longer be to stop this form of thought. Rather, your aim needs to be to develop a completely different way of thinking."
Step 1: Identify What Your Negative Self-Talk Involves
It’s easy to say, “I have negative thoughts,” but often harder to actually pinpoint what those thoughts are. One reason for this difficulty is the fact that the thoughts are unpleasant. You don’t really want to relive them in your free time.
Also, it can be a vulnerable and often embarrassing experience to write out negative self-talk. It feels almost silly and you can easily convince yourself that you don’t actually think that way.
However, you do. Whether it’s on a daily basis or limited to certain moments, such negative self-talk is present. It’s important to first identify what you say. That way what you substitute those thoughts for is that much more impactful.
To do so, I encourage keeping a journal of your thoughts for a week. As you go throughout the week, jot down the negative thoughts you have. If you notice they occur at specific times during the day, write what those moments are. What are you doing? Who's around you?
Knowledge is power. The more you understand yourself and the thoughts you have, the more power you have to change.
Step 2: Generate Your Alternatives
Once you’ve uncovered the typical negative thoughts you have, it’s time to come up with some alternatives. Now, why do you even need to write out different thoughts? Why can’t you simply think of something else in the moment to substitute for the negative thoughts you experience?
Well, there are a few reasons for this. Number one is how difficult that is to actually do. Think about when you’re in the midst of negative self-talk.
How much control have you had in the past? Very little I’d imagine. In these situations, it’s extremely difficult to even remember to substitute your thoughts. By creating alternatives for yourself, there are a set of phrases you have at your disposal, easily ready to act as a substitute.
A second reason has more to do with long term improvement. In the moment you’re experiencing negative self-talk, the alternatives serve as a way to immediately shift your thinking.
However, the negative self-talk is present to begin with because that’s the way your mind has been trained to think. For years, without realizing it, you’ve trained your mind to speak negatively. Alternatives allow you to do the opposite.
Once you craft your alternatives and begin repeating them to yourself on a daily basis, not only will this make substituting your thoughts easier, it will also retrain your brain.
Dealing with a negative voice in your head that you can’t seem to silence must be dealt with. As negative thoughts run through your mind, negative and depressive feelings are quick to follow.
However, trying to force such thoughts out of your mind is a fruitless endeavor. While it may seem to be a logical approach, in reality, it will only worsen the problem. Instead, you must learn how to substitute one thought for another.
To do so, initially you will need to confront the negative thoughts you’re experiencing. Write them down and truly get to know the voice in your head. Next comes the fun part. Craft alternatives you will use whenever that negative voice speaks up in the future.
Put this plan into action, and watch as you gain the power to stop negative self-talk.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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