Think back to when you first looked at yourself in the mirror this morning. What did you think? Did you say, “You’re beautiful, strong, and capable” or was it more critical?
We’re all guilty of criticizing ourselves a little too harshly from time to time. Though you may be pointing out flaws with the intent of fixing them, this negative self-talk can be extremely detrimental to your health.
Dr. Melanie Greenberg, a clinical and health psychologist, explains that negative self-talk affects self-esteem, can interfere with relationships, and is associated with higher stress levels.
“We feel bad about ourselves,” says Dr. Greenberg, “which gets in our way because it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, if you don’t think you’re worth very much, you’ll act that way and you may not make good choices about the people in your life.” In addition, you can fall into “worry cycles,” in which you think about the ways your inner critic is right. This results in higher stress levels.
It’s time to silence that negative voice inside your head. Challenge yourself to become a more positive thinker with these 5 tips.
How to Curb Negative Self-Talk
Start with awareness. Start paying close attention to what you say to yourself and write it down. Identify any patterns you notice and become aware of your thought process. “Realize that it isn’t you, it’s your inner critic,” says Dr. Greenberg.
Stand up for yourself. If someone were critical of someone you love, you’d stick up for your friend. Why not stick up for yourself? Next time your inner critic starts talking, stand up to it. Dr. Greenberg suggests saying it loudly: “That’s not true,” or ‘don’t talk to me like that!” Instead of letting that voice get you down, try telling it what you need—confidence, motivation, or support—and find ways to provide that for yourself.
Become a scientist. Scientists gather evidence, and so should you. If you’re telling yourself that you’re stupid, look for specific examples in your life that prove it’s not true. Present the evidence to your inner critic.
When in doubt, distract. If you’re in the middle of giving yourself a mental slap, provide a distraction. “Sometimes people get stuck sitting around and worrying and getting down on themselves, and that’s very right-brain,” Dr. Greenberg explains. To break this cycle, she suggests finding a ‘left-brain’ activity: “If you can do something logical and structured, like organize your closet, it can break the right-brain cycle.”
Get moving. Exercise is another great way to interrupt those nasty thoughts. In addition to being a welcome distraction, exercise boosts your confidence and self-esteem. “It gives you a focus, and it gets you into your body as opposed to being in your head,” says Dr. Greenberg. So get up and get active!
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