Five Tips To Improve Positive Self-Talk

     Self-talk, simply put, is the way we talk to ourselves about - you guessed it - ourselves. Sometimes it's a little voice in our heads that gives us positive reinforcement. Other times, that little voice is negative and demeaning. These thoughts impact everything we feel and our behaviors. Unfortunately, as humans, we tend to be geared more toward negative self-talk - the "I can't do it" and "I'm such a failure" type of thinking.
      However, there is good news! You can learn to recognize the negative self-talk, challenge it, and change it. The following five tips can help you re-train your mind to practice positive and motivating self-talk.
     1. Recognize how you talk to yourself. Pay attention to your self-talk. Recognize when it is easier versus when it's more difficult to engage positive thoughts.
     2. Put up the mental stop sign on negative self-talk. When you recognize yourself thinking something negative, such as "I can't ___," "I'm not ____ enough for that," or "I'm too stupid," picture a stop sign. Then replace the thought with a positive one.
     3. Turn on positive self-talk. Sometimes we start spiraling out of control with our negative thoughts. Throw up that stop sign, then make a mental U-turn. Think about what you did well that day. What did you do correctly? What do you like about yourself? Tell yourself that things will work out and be okay.
     4. Give yourself advice as a friend. When our friends are feeling down or have things that go wrong, we try to lift their spirits with positive comments or advice. Do the same thing for yourself. What would you say to friends if they were in your situation? Then say those things to yourself.
     5. Pick a positive, helpful, hopeful phrase. Find a saying, quote, or verse that holds a positive meaning for you. During times of stress, repeat that phrase to yourself. Some people like to use quotes by famous figures in history, like "Believe you can and you’re halfway there" from Theodore Roosevelt. Others like to use Biblical verses. If you have trouble thinking of one, there are a plethora of inspirational quotes on the Internet, or you can try something like "I am stronger than I think," "I am loved," "I can do this," or "I will learn from this challenge and be stronger."
     Remember, our self-talk affects our feelings and behaviors. Imagine a triangle with each point labeled "feelings," "thoughts," and "behaviors." They are interconnected and affect each other. You can't have one without affecting the other two points. By working to have positive thoughts, you will be able to better manage feelings and handle behaviors in a positive way. 

(Pointers adapted from "5 Tips For Improving Your Self-Talk" in National Geographic Kids: 100 Things to Make You Happy, page 75.)

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