Everyone deals with critical thoughts sometimes. We all have an inner voice that encourages us to play it safe, make ourselves small, and live in fear. But negative thoughts drain your energy and keep you focused on the wrong thing. The key to changing negative self talk is not to try to avoid, but instead to put the negative thoughts in the right place.
Thoughts are not things. They are just thoughts. They come and if you choose not to focus on them too much, they also go.
Here are 9 tips to combat negative self talk.
1. Write down your feelings.
The best way to let something go is to first get it out of your head. The process of writing something out by hand helps you to begin the process of releasing it. Once it’s there on the page you can read it back a little more subjectively and start to notice how what you feel might not be true. To further allow yourself to let this go, challenge that negative thought with a positive one that directly reframes the negative thought you originally wrote.
2. Try to live in the present.
Instead of thinking about the past or stressing about the future, try to stay in this moment. Mindfulness is a useful tool to get you out of the moment and focus on the thing you’re doing right now. One simple example is focusing on your breath. Breathe in and out slowly and concentrate on the physical sensation happening in your body.
3. Move your body.
Physical activities are a useful way to distract us from negative thoughts. Getting lost in aerobic exercise or lifting weights can reset your mood and drive blood flow through your body helping you to think clearer and more positively. Turning on music and dancing around the house can increase your serotonin levels. And yoga can stretch your body and help you think from a new perspective.
4. Make room for gray area.
No situation is all bad or all good. And oftentimes negative self talk has the tendency to push you to extremes. Either this is the absolute best thing that could happen or the absolute worst thing that could happen. But in reality, life is never just black and white. Instead of jumping to big conclusions allow yourself the time and space to pause and reflect. This will help you focus on more realistic outcomes instead.
5. Find ways to limit negativity in your life.
This might mean unfollowing certain people on social media. It could mean not watching the news the first thing in the morning. Or it could mean avoiding some people that are energy vampires. By removing some of the negativity in your life, you make more room for positive thinking.
6. Try positive affirmations.
A lot of times negative thinking comes from low self-esteem. One of the best ways to build self-esteem is to repeat positive affirmations. While it might be awkward at first, positive affirmations can help unravel negative thought patterns in your life. The repetition of the phrases helps to rewrite your story and ultimately encourages you to make positive changes in your life.
7. Find things to be grateful for.
Your life is probably busy and stressful. And that means you might not take enough time to celebrate all of the wonderful things that have happened so far or how far you’ve actually come. The daily practice of writing down things that you’re grateful for can be life-changing. Staying in a mindset of gratitude can turn off the desire to feel sad and defeated and help you to embrace that even the storms you face are actually strength training for the life you ultimately want to lead.
8. Talk to yourself like you’re a three-year-old.
A lot of times negative self talk will show up when we’ve made a mistake. But mistakes are normal and everyone makes them. Parent your inner child by gently nudging yourself in the right direction as if you’re talking to a three-year-old. You’re your own best friend, so you have to lead with love even when you’re talking to yourself.
9. Talk it out with a friend or a professional.
Friends are useful for working through small, daily fears. Or to be able to bounce ideas off of. But if you feel blocked in any area of your life, I will encourage you to consider working with a professional therapist. One of the beautiful things that come from therapy is that a trained professional has the tools to help notice patterns, ask thought-provoking questions and guide you on your journey for greater self love.