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The importance of positive self-talk

Positive self-talk at desk

Culturally in Australia, we use incredibly negative language on a regular basis. Don’t believe it? Think about what you said the last time someone greeted you and asked how you were. Bet you said something like 'not bad.' What about the last time someone thanked you for something. Bet you said something like 'no worries' or 'no problems'

There are a few reasons why we do it:

1. Our culture of cutting down tall poppies has led us to not brag about ourselves lest we be seen as big headed or having tickets on ourselves, so we talk down our achievements and our positives.

2. We do it because that is what we grew up listening to.

3. Often the negatives take less thought process than the positives.

Another big reason why we do it is that our brains are wired that way.

Positive self-talk can go a long way to help build your resilience. Work to identify any negative thought processes and reframe these negative thoughts into positive self-talk. Negative thoughts generally arise during times of self-doubt; worry; stress; lost focus; when we are communicating with people we don’t enjoy, or when we think we can’t do something.

Some ways you can enhance your positive self-talk include:

  • Thought stopping – when you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind stop mid-stream by saying to yourself 'stop'. Saying this aloud will be more powerful.
  • Replacing negative words – replace strong negative words with milder, more neutral ones. Instead of using words like ‘hate’ and ‘angry’, use words such as ‘don’t like’ and ‘annoyed’. For example, 'I hate people who talk on their mobile phone on the train! It makes me so angry!' could be re-phrased as 'I don't like people who talk on their mobile phone on the train, it makes me annoyed.' By using milder language, it allows more appropriate emotions, feelings and behaviours as a result.
  • Change negative to neutral or positive – reframe your thinking and rethink your assumptions if you find yourself mentally grumbling or complaining about something. Are you assuming something is negative when in reality it maybe isn't so bad? For example, 'This task is too big, I’ll never get it finished'. Reframe to 'If I relax and focus, and break it down into smaller bits, I'll finish by the deadline.'
  • Change negative statements to questions – negative statements such as 'I can’t handle this!' or 'This is impossible!' can increase your stress and prevent the search for a solution. If you find yourself thinking in ways that are self-limiting, try turning it into a question – 'How can I handle this?' or 'How is this possible?' By doing this the situation can sound more hopeful as well as help you to imagine new paths to possible solutions.

Think over the past several weeks and identify situations where you thought negatively. Using the suggestions above, change and reword those negative thoughts to what you could have said positively to yourself instead.

Remind yourself that you are strong! Positive self-talk will help you grow stronger and wiser as you handle life’s challenges.

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