How to Make Positive Self-Talk a Habit

Success habits don’t exist.

… at least not as a one-size-fits-all recipe.

If you watched this week’s YouTube video, you already know you need to dump the one-size-fits-all recipe and start creating personalized success habits within the five major areas of your life. Wait…. you don’t know the five major areas? It’s okay, you can still learn them right now if you watch this week’s YouTube video by clicking here right now.

"Success habits" don't exist
YouTube @ Ella Sofia

Okay, now that you’ve watched the video, you know one of these major areas is “self-talk”. And as promised in my video, today I will be sharing with you an exercise that will help you create a habit of positive self talk.

Why is Self-Talk so Important?

Self talk is a major piece to building mental fortitude and resilience. In fact, if you take two athletes with the same physical ability, studies show that the athlete with better self-talk can compete for a longer duration of time. Self-talk, as defined by Hackfort and Schwenkmezger (1993), is a “dialogue [in which] the individual interprets feelings and perceptions, regulates and changes evaluations and convictions, and gives him/herself instructions and reinforcement” (p. 355).

So if your interpretations of criticism, instruction, or ambiguous comments skews negatively, you’re self-talk is going to make you feel sad, depressed, anxious, and unworthy. Or alternatively, if your interpretations always skew positively, it is possible that your self-talk can make you become arrogant, pompous, and cocky. My recommendation is to have a balanced view where you always seek areas of improvement, areas where you were successful, and give yourself motivation to push through challenges.

So when that negative critic starts-up in your head, you need to have positive and realistic responses ready to quiet the critic immediately.

The Self Talk Exercise

Step 1

Grab a piece of paper and divide it lengthwise in two. Column A is called Negative Self Talk (if it helps, think of this as the little devil on your shoulder), and Column B is called Positive Responses (again, if it helps, think of this as the little angel on your shoulder). Oh! And since this is 2019, you are more than welcome to complete this exercise in the notes on your phone or on some other piece of technology.

Step 2

Now, in Column A, start writing down the negative things you often say to yourself. This part can take as long or as short as you want; as you go through your day, week, or even month, take this exercise with you and every time your negative critic starts-up, write down what it has to say, After some time, you’ll accumulate all the comments your negative critic likes to think and you might start to see a pattern of negative self talk.

Step 3

After each time you write down a negative self talk comment, I want you to think of a rational and reasonable response to write in Column B. So for example, if one day at work you tell yourself, “I am stupid”. In Column B you’d write responses such as, “I am I confusing stupidity for lack of experience”, “I rushed through this project instead of taking my time”, “I should ask a question about how to better complete this project.” And any other response your self-talk angel would think.

Step 4

Look at this list every night. Look for any negative self-talk patterns, and if you find one, figure out why you fall into that pattern. It could be because an event in your past, your environment growing up, or even your competitive personality. Can you figure out this negative pattern on your own or do you need to talk to a mental health professional?

Once you know the root of the problem, you can come up with even more effective positive self-talk responses.

Step 5

Get to know the positive responses in Column B. This way, when that negative critic enters your mind, you’ll have responses at the ready to kick that critic to the curb. Create a habit out of using these responses by fulfilling the components of the habit formula:

Habit(f) = (cue + routine + reward)repetition

Make your cue the negative self-talk; so when you hear a negative comment, you’ll be cued to implement the routine. Make the routine your positive / healthy self talk responses. And make your reward mental fortitude. Through repetition, your positive self talk responses will become automatic; eventually, using these responses to counter your negative critic will become a habit.

Control Your Self-Talk

Life is 20% what happens to you and 80% how you respond.

The Pragmatic Principle

Since we are human, it is unrealistic to say we will never have bad thoughts. That said, integrating positive self talk into your life is not about never having bad thoughts. Alternatively, it is about learning how to remove bad thoughts when they do enter your mind.

If there is one thing I want you to remember from this post, it’s that positive and healthy self-talk will improve your mental health endurance. Complete this exercise to prepare yourself to push through struggles. Be proactive with your personal growth so that you can make this the #YearofYou!

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Any information and content on my website is not a substitute for professional health advice.

Resources cited:
Hackfort, D., & Schwenkmezger, P. (1993). Anxiety, In R.N. Singer, M. Murphey & L.K. Tennant (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Sport Psychology (pp. 328-364). New York: Macmillan. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/James_Hardy6/publication/278026389_A_Descriptive_Study_of_Athlete_Self-Talk/links/5579b1a308ae75363756f6dc.pdf

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