Hawaii Health Alerts: Practicing Positive Self-Talk

Medically reviewed in June 2022

Think about a time you did something embarrassing and beat yourself up about it. That little voice inside your head may have a big impact. Negative self-talk like judging, doubting or belittling yourself is more harmful than you think. Our inner-critic can inhibit and limit us, and may be keeping us from being happy. Left unchecked, negative self-talk can lead to mental health problems like depression or anxiety.

Let’s try to be kinder to ourselves. Here are a few ways to incorporate more positive self-talk for a happier you:

Reframe negative thoughts. Positive thinking can help you feel peaceful and calm. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations. Instead of “I can’t do it,” tell yourself, “I’m up for this challenge.” When you look in the mirror, don’t focus on your flaws (“All I can see is my muffin top”). Concentrate on areas you like (“My calves look strong today”) or channel negative energy into positive action (“I’m going to work on strengthening my core the next time I exercise”).

Adopt a mantra. A mantra is a repeated word, sound or statement that can help you meditate or concentrate. Mantras can also be positive thoughts for you to focus on whenever you’re feeling stressed, like “Happiness is my choice,” “my mind is calm,” or “I’m thankful.”

Acknowledge your accomplishments. Accomplishments can be big or small. Whether you completed a major project at work, reached a fitness goal or were patient with a server who messed up your order, it’s important to give yourself a pat on the back. Taking a moment to reflect on the good will help you get into a positive mindset and help combat negative thoughts when they pop up.

Treat yourself like you’d treat a good friend. If your friend messes up or makes a faux pas, do you laugh and belittle them? Hopefully you’re sympathetic and encouraging, which is exactly how you should treat yourself. Tell yourself (and your friend!) that making mistakes is a normal part of life and the important thing is that you learn from them.

It’s okay if positive self-talk doesn’t come naturally to you. Like any other skill, it just takes practice.  But once you’re able to turn negative self-talk into positive thoughts or actions, you’ll be happier and healthier.

This content originally appeared on Well-Being Hawaii.

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