Negative self-talk is toxic to our emotional well-being. We all do it — we tell ourselves things like, I’m too fat; I’ll never find love; my boss hates me; etc. But what happens when you start telling yourself something negative about yourself over and over again? You’re likely to experience some pretty unpleasant emotions. In fact, research suggests that people who engage in negative self-talk are actually less happy than those who don’t. And according to a recent study published in the journal Emotion, negative self-talk is even linked to depression. So how can you stop saying mean things to yourself? Here are five tips for beating negative self-talk once and for all.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
When you compare yourself to someone else, you’re essentially putting yourself down. This doesn’t just make you unhappy; it makes you depressed. Research shows that people who compare themselves unfavorably to others are more prone to anxiety, stress, and low mood. Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on improving yourself. If you want to lose weight, work out, or improve your social skills, then focus on becoming better today than you were yesterday.
2. Don’t dwell on mistakes.
If you let yourself dwell on a mistake, you’ll keep replaying the same thought pattern over and over again. As a result, you won’t learn anything positive from the situation. Instead, reframe the incident as a learning opportunity. For example, if you accidentally spilled coffee on your shirt, rather than thinking about how embarrassing it was, think about how you could prevent such an accident in the future.
3. Focus on the present moment.
Instead of worrying about the future or dwelling on the past, spend your energy focusing on the here and now. Think about what you’re grateful for, and take note of the good things happening in your life. Doing so helps you build up your resilience, which is key to maintaining a healthy mindset.
Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend
Negative selftalk is like a habit. You know it well. And you probably don’t want to stop talking to yourself. But there are ways to change how you think about yourself without making things even worse. Here are some tips for breaking free from negative selftalk.
1. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend.
When we’re feeling down, we tend to focus on our faults and shortcomings. This is normal — we’re human. But when you start thinking negatively about yourself, try changing the way you speak to yourself. Instead of saying something like “I’m such a loser,” say “I am having a tough day.” Or instead of “I’m fat,” say “I look great today!” When you make positive statements, you’ll notice that you feel better.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others.
If you find yourself comparing yourself to someone else, take a step back. Comparing yourself to another person isn’t helpful because no one knows what you’ve been through. Plus, comparisons are often based on superficialities, such as looks, income, and social status. If you really want to improve your life, focus on improving yourself.
3. Think positively.
We tend to associate negativity with failure, sadness, and pain. So it’s important to remember that positivity doesn’t mean ignoring problems; it just means looking at them differently. For example, if you’re struggling with money, think of it as a challenge rather than a problem. If you’re unhappy with your job, think of it as an opportunity to learn something new.
‘SIFT’ through what people say about you
A lot of people are quick to judge others based on their appearance, personality traits, or even how well they do their job. But there might be something else behind those judgments — something that you’re probably unaware of. A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University found that people tend to make snap judgments about others based on the way they talk about themselves.
The research team, led by David Rand, wanted to find out whether we can learn anything about someone just by listening to the way he talks about himself. To test this theory, the researchers recruited participants online and asked them to listen to recordings of strangers describing themselves in different ways. For example, one person described herself as “a very good listener,” while another talked about her ability to “make friends easily.” After hearing each description, participants rated the speaker on several dimensions, including likability, trustworthiness, intelligence, and attractiveness.
What the researchers discovered surprised them. Even though the descriptions were completely unrelated, listeners tended to agree with the speakers’ self-descriptions. They thought the people who described themselves as “good listeners” were actually more likeable than the ones who claimed to be “very good”
Don’t forget that our brains have a tendency to focus on the negative
Negative bias is one of those psychological phenomena that seems obvious once you know it exists. But how do we actually fall victim to it? And why does it happen?
The answer lies in something called “negativity bias.” This phenomenon occurs when we’re exposed to information that doesn’t match up with our expectations. For example, if we expect good news and we hear bad news, we’ll pay more attention to the bad news than the good.
This happens because we humans are wired to focus on the negative. Our brains are hardwired to notice threats and mistakes and to ignore opportunities and successes. In fact, we even start to see patterns where there aren’t any.
We’ve all heard the saying “If you look for trouble, you won’t find it,” and that’s true. If we keep looking for problems, we’ll never find solutions. So, here’s the thing: Don’t let yourself fall prey to negativity bias. Instead, try focusing on the positive aspects of life.
Don’t dwell on something that bothers you — talk about it
A few weeks ago I had a conversation with someone who was upset because she didn’t receive an invite to her friend’s wedding. She told me how angry she felt because he hadn’t even bothered to ask her. We talked about why she was feeling so hurt and angry, and we both agreed that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be held hostage by our emotions. Instead, we should talk to people who care about us about what’s bothering us. If we don’t feel like talking to anyone, we should just write down our concerns and keep them somewhere safe where we won’t forget about them.
If we do want to talk about something that upsets us, we should try to find people who are willing to listen without judging us. They might help us understand things better and give us some perspective. And if we really want to work out our problems, we should try to come up with solutions together.
Adapt a ‘growth mindset’
A growth mindset helps you learn better from failure, rather than dwelling on it. A fixed mindset leads to feelings of inadequacy and depression. A growth mindset will help to overcome setbacks and move forward.