27 Oct 6 Ways To Practice Positive Self-Talk Without Feeling Like You’re Straight-Up Lying to Yourself
via Well and Good by Jessica Estrada
What is positive self-talk?
Positive self-talk is about speaking to yourself and treating yourself with kindness and compassion, just like you would treat someone you love, says clinical and forensic neuropsychologist Judy Ho, PhD. It stems from positive psychology, which she defines as “the study of what makes humans flourish and operate at their best. It’s about leaning into strengths rather than focusing solely on our weaknesses, and using our strengths to solve problems in our lives.”
Despite its benefits, positive self-talk is often conflated with “toxic positivity,” or the tendency to shove down negative feelings in pursuit of a “good vibes only” vibe. But, there’s nothing toxic about positive self-talk. Whitney Goodman, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist based in Miami, Florida, says positive self-talk is not about continually being positive, because—let’s be real—that’s not possible, nor would it be healthy. Instead, Goodman explains that positive self-talk takes on more of a neutral approach as a way of interacting with your thoughts and feelings in an understanding way.
“It doesn’t mean that we will always feel good when we use [positive self-talk] or that it will be easy to access,” Goodman says. “Sometimes, it’s incredibly hard. Some situations just aren’t positive.” So if you’ve tried reciting all the affirmations and they don’t quite resonate, think of positive self-talk as a realistic and empowered way of thinking versus constant positivity.
Positive self-talk is also about perspective. Kevin Gilliland, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist and executive director of Innovation360, an outpatient counseling service, says positive self-talk is a skill you develop as you gain a greater understanding of and appreciation for perspective. You’re able to see hope and optimism in a situation. “When humans struggle with depression or anxiety or any form of a psychological issue, we tend to develop a negative bias, seeing the impossible and the negative and overlooking things that are encouraging or hopeful,” Dr. Gilliland says. “When we get a broader, more balanced, or fair view of the situation, we can see the other possibilities that aren’t negative.”
The connection between mental and physical health
We can’t talk about mental health without also discussing physical health. The two are connected and impact one another. “If something happens to you physically, you’re going to experience some mental symptoms around that change,” Goodman says. “You will likely create a story about what is happening to you physically. You will interpret the symptoms and signs. You may develop certain emotions about the physical changes or experiences you’re having.”
This is why, Goodman adds, it’s common for people with physical illnesses also to develop mental health issues like depression and anxiety as either a symptom or due to the stress of managing the physical illness.
And vice versa: Dr. Gilliland says it’s also common for people struggling with a mental illness to develop physical symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome or sleep problems. “I personally think that’s good news because we have a lot of options [including positive self-talk] to help manage our psychological health, more than just counseling and medications,” he says.
4 benefits of positive self-talk
1. New perspective to help during hard times
Let’s be honest: Life is rough sometimes (we’re looking at you, 2020), and, often, our thoughts and negative internal dialogue and pessimistic thinking can make things harder than they need to be. When this happens, Dr. Gilliland says, we aren’t looking at things from a fair perspective. Positive self-talk helps us take a step back and actually see the whole picture, which is a critical component when going through difficult times.
One of the benefits of practicing positive self-talk is that it helps you see certain situations from a new perspective. “Some people tend to fall into black-and-white thinking: Everything is all good or all bad,” Goodman says. “When we work on our self-talk, we can view the gray in situations. Sometimes there is a lot of bad and good, but this flexibility allows people to access their coping strategies and find what works for them.”
2. Better relationships
Positive self-talk doesn’t just impact our own mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It can also affect our relationships. “When we’re able to see the good in ourselves, we’re able to see it in others,” Goodman says. “Having a well-rounded sense of self and knowing what our strengths are often allows us to put ourselves out there more easily and opens us up to new relationship opportunities.”
3. Increased self-confidence and self-efficacy
According to Dr. Ho, positive self-talk (or as she refers to it, “balanced self-talk”) also helps you build confidence and better control over what’s happening in your life. In other words, you’re less likely to feel like life is happening to you and more like you’re in the driver’s seat, which is a much more empowered viewpoint. Dr. Ho adds that people with higher self-esteem are also more likely to achieve their goals and be realistic in how they get there.
4. Decreased loneliness
When the negative self-talk is running rampant, that typically makes people want to hide and isolate, because they feel ashamed or guilty, even though this is likely the time when you need the support of others the most. Positive self-talk has the opposite effect. “Increasing positivity or balanced self-talk will make it easier for you to stay connected to loved ones and people who support you,” Dr. Ho says. Having that sense of community and connection and emotional support makes it easier for people to navigate difficult situations.
6 methods for implementing positive self-talk in your daily routine
1. Ensure the positive self-talk feels true
When you’re in the thick of feeling crappy and are mentally in a dark place, Goodman says positive affirmations can feel forced, inauthentic, and like straight-up lies, making them not as effective…
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