What is Positive Self-Talk - and what is it not?
Positive self-talk is a powerful tool that can help us overcome challenges, build resilience, and improve our mental health. It involves using encouraging, supportive, and empowering language to communicate with ourselves. The idea behind positive self-talk is that by changing the way we think and speak to ourselves, we can change the way we feel and act. For example, rather than saying “I’m not good enough”, positive self-talk would involve saying “I am capable and have the skills to succeed.” Positive self-talk is not intended as a way of ignoring problems or denying reality, but rather a way of approaching problems with a constructive and optimistic mindset.
Here are some evidence-based benefits of positive self-talk:
Reduces stress and anxiety
Research has shown that positive self-talk can help reduce stress and anxiety. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, participants who practised positive self-talk before a stressful task reported lower levels of anxiety and performed better than those who did not.
Positive self-talk can also help improve our mood. A study published in the journal Health Psychology found that participants who engaged in positive self-talk experienced an improvement in mood and a decrease in negative emotions.
Positive self-talk can help us build resilience and cope with difficult situations. In a study published in the Journal of Counselling Psychology, researchers found that positive self-talk was associated with greater resilience and better coping strategies in response to stress.
Positive self-talk can also boost our self-confidence. When we use positive language to encourage and support ourselves, we are more likely to believe in our abilities and feel more confident in our actions. A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that positive self-talk was associated with greater self-confidence and performance in athletes.
Improves physical health
Finally, positive self-talk has been linked to improved physical health. In a study published in the journal Psychology and Health, participants who engaged in positive self-talk while exercising reported greater enjoyment and lower levels of perceived exertion.
So, how can we incorporate positive self-talk into our daily lives?
Be mindful of your self-talk
Pay attention to the way you speak to yourself and challenge negative or self-defeating thoughts. Ask yourself whether these thoughts are accurate, realistic and helpful. If they are not, try to reframe them into more positive and constructive ones.
Use positive language
Use words and phrases that are encouraging, supportive, and empowering. For example, instead of saying "I can't do this," say "I can do this” or “I can learn how to do this.” Practise self-compassion; acknowledge your mistakes without judgment and offer yourself encouragement and support.
Be specific and realistic
Use specific language to set specific and realistic goals and expectations. Setting unrealistic goals or being too vague can lead to negative self-talk when we inevitably fall short.
Celebrate your successes
Focusing on your strengths and accomplishments can help boost your positive self-talk. Celebrate your successes, no matter how small they may seem.
Like any skill, positive self-talk takes practice. Make a habit of using positive self-talk throughout the day, especially in challenging situations.
Positive self-talk is a powerful tool that can help us improve our mental and physical health, build resilience, and boost our self-confidence. By using encouraging and supportive language, we can change the way we think and feel, leading to a greater sense of competence and achievement.