Self-talk: Change Your Thinking to Improve Your Feelings

feelingsHow Thoughts Effect Feelings

Self-talk is that “little voice inside your head” that tells you about yourself, other people, and situations. Self-talk can be positive, like when you tell yourself that you are going to ace a job interview; or it can be negative, like when you berate yourself for making a mistake. How you think about things can have a huge influence on how you feel. Negative self-talk, which is very common, tends to make you feel angry, frustrated, anxious, or sad and may contribute to experiencing mental health disorders. Over time, our ways of thinking become habitual and automatic. Automatic thoughts reduce our ability to manage our feelings and behavior productively.

Steps to Improve Your Feelings

The first step in changing habitual ways of thinking is to become aware of your thoughts. Begin by noticing your inner dialogue without judgement. Try taking the perspective of an observer or witness to your thoughts by imagining them floating by on a cloud, being typed on a computer screen, or even happening to someone else. Observing thoughts as if they were outside ourselves makes it easier to look at them realistically and decreases emotion. Once we are able to look at our thinking habits objectively, we are better able to choose helpful thoughts and identify thinking errors that contribute to uncomfortable feelings likeanger, anxiety and depression.

Changing Self-Talk

Once you have been able to identify some common self-talk, try these exercises.

Be Objective

Try writing down an upsetting or troubling incident. Describe what you were thinking about yourself, the situation, and any other people involved. Go back over your writing and notice how many of your thoughts were based in facts and how many were based on assumptions, beliefs, fears or biases. Stick to the facts of a situation and it becomes easier consider alternative viewpoints.

For example, consider the following event: You are in a meeting with several co-workers and your boss is frowning while you speak. Your negative thoughts may go like this: “She hates what I’m saying. She probably thinks I’m stupid. I never get anything right around here. They probably all agree with the boss. I’m such a failure! I’m probably going to get fired. I ought to just quit.” In this example, it’s clear how negative self-talk lead to feelings of frustration, anger, and shame. Those intense feelings lead to a strong desire to change jobs and avoid coworkers.

Go back to the facts: you are in a meeting with co-workers and the boss is frowning.

Think of Alternatives

While the boss might disagree with you, it is also possible she was in deep thought about what you said. It is also possible that she was in pain (she did mention a headache at the beginning of the meeting.) More helpful thoughts might include: “This is uncomfortable but I can handle it,”or “Maybe the manager is having a bad day. I don’t need to let it ruin my day or make me leave my job.”

Think of Positives

Focusing on the positive can also help tame emotions. Can you recall a situation in which your manager agreed with you or gave you praise? Can you recall other positive moments in the meeting or positive aspects of the job? Focusing on the positive, no matter how small, can help bring balance to intense emotions.

Avoid Using Words such as “Always” and “Never”

Instead of saying, “I never get anything right!” try saying, “I made a mistake in my quote on the Summers bid. I will correct it and move on.”

Avoid Using Loaded Words

Loaded words such as “horrible, terrible, stupid” evoke strong emotion. Instead of calling yourself a failure, remind yourself you failed at one task.

Speak Nicely to Yourself

Ask yourself how you would if your best friend said this about himself?” You would probably dispute his claim and say nice things to him, wouldn’t you? How about doing that for yourself?

These are just some of the effective ways to manage negative self-talk and improve your feelings. We have excellent therapists who can help you learn these techniques and more to help you overcome negative thinking. For more information, contact us today.