Self Talk – Negative or Positive

The other day I had quite a long talk with myself. Before you decide how crazy I am, it’s fair to say everyone talks to themselves. The real question is do you talk aloud or just in your head. I do a little of both. Lately, I’ve become more aware of where my conversations with myself are going. Some of them deal with memory such as “what’s today, Tuesday or Friday. Last week, I know I had at least two Saturdays; this is one of the curses of the pandemic. My routines used to help me keep track of the days. Other conversation are of a more personal nature such as: “When are you going to start exercising, you know you’ve gained twenty pounds,” and “You are complacent; you should be writing.”

Lately, more of my conversation has been negative – deriding myself for not being more productive, more upbeat, more social to the levels that I know I could be, more principled, more proactive. Needless to say all this negative self-talk leaves me depressed and even more lethargic than I was before I started prodding and probing myself. Like so many others, I am tired of physical distancing, nil travel opportunities, and social activities limited to my immediate family. More than that the pandemic necessities have stymied my creativity. My blog and my other projects have slowed tremendously because my favorite writing places are off limits.

Yet, I can not allow myself to continue down this road of negative self talk. It leads to depression. It leads to anger. It leads to overwhelming grief. It leads to hopelessness. The emotions that grow out of this negativity are intolerable. It has the opposite effect of it’s intent. Why do we think deriding ourselves (or others) is a motivational tool. You really can’t encourage positive behavior through ridicule and mockery (not in yourself or others). Making myself feel bad did not trigger me to feel better or to do better in the areas that troubled me.

Truth is, everyone is trying to establish workable routines and some sense of normalcy for our lives during this pandemic. We shouldn’t blame ourselves for the time it takes us to adjust to the “new normal.” All of us should be congratulated for learning to work from home or work in a nearly empty building. We could use some praise for the way we have maintained contact and social closeness while physically distancing. We should dispense some compliments for the ingenuity and creativity that has come out of the necessity to help and train others to make the best of their resources.

I’m not just talking about what we say to others; I’m also talking about what we say to ourselves. We are survivors. We are contributors. We are essential, not only as workers but as mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, extended family members, neighbors, and friends. We can be proud of ourselves and tell ourselves: “I am amazing. I can do so many things. I am prepared to take the next step. I can change my circumstances. I have the resources to make a difference. Today is a new day, I can start over. Under the circumstances, I’m doing well. Its time to make some new goals. This is an opportunity to try something new.” Our self talk can be positive and motivational.

My oldest son fell through a garage window when he was in elementary school. We had just moved to Georgia during the holiday season. He received a bike for Christmas. As he was riding down the hill the brakes locked and he went airborne through the neighbors garage window. After surgery to reattach his nose and stitch up his face, he had a big Y-shaped scare on his face right beneath his eye. He was going to go to a new elementary school in our new city in January. I knew it would difficult and I knew the scare would be the object of questions and ridicule. The only thing I could thing of was to try to prepare him for both. Every morning and every night, I stood behind him as we looked in the bathroom mirror and repeated positive affirmations. These included the meaning of his name. How talented he was. How there was no shame in explaining how he got the scare. There were so many things besides his scare that defined him and it was those things that would cause him to make friends and succeed in his new school. Today he is forty-one and the big Y-shaped scare is barely visible, but learning positive self-talk has never gone away.

I had a long talk with myself the other day. I told myself: “No more negative self talk! If you want to change something, change it. If you are unhappy about something, do something about it. Give yourself a break if it doesn’t work the first time. Never be afraid to try again.” The little saying below is something I got off the internet last year to encourage my fourteen year old granddaughter. I have added it to my positive self talk as an affirmation. Maybe you can use it too.

Motivational Quote for the Classroom | Inspirational quotes for ...

Stay Positive. Stay Sane. Stay Safe!

Silencing the Power of Stress

“Stress is not a silent killer, if you don’t believe me listen to your self-talk.” Several weeks ago I posted this phrase on my personal Facebook page, and I’ve been thinking about it this week. Many medical experts agree, stress will kill you. It causes insomnia, high blood pressure, irritability, digestive issues, and more, depending on the level and intensity of the stress. It also can kill your will to live your best life by casting shadows of doubt and despair over your goals, your relationships, and your creativity.

Stress seems to be quite a dangerous influence over our lives, but is that partly because we give stress more power with negative self-talk? That’s the thing I’ve been thinking about as I look for ways to control my own stress levels. In the same way that negative people can suck the life out of you with their constant diatribe of “what if’s,” and “that will never work,” and the ten thousand bad things that happened when someone they don’t even know tried that. Our own self-talk can have the same effect.

How many times have you said to yourself, “how could I have been so stupid? Or “look at the mess I’ve got myself into!” Or worst yet, “I’m never going to get out of this mess,” followed by a million things that could go wrong. The worry that comes with stress builds an anxiety for the unknown future that’s staggering. Our imagination seems to take that ball and run away with it. If you are like me, you discover that none of the “what if’s” ever really happen. Of course, this is after weeks of sleepless nights. Okay enough of the downside. I discovered one way to turn my stinking thinking around that I would like to share. (Actually it’s an additional way because everything I’ve written before helps too!) It’s called a Gratitude Journal.

A Gratitude Journal forces you to look at and think about all the good things that are happening in your life. This is an easy journal. You don’t write paragraphs; you make lists. For example, if you are feeling sad, try making a list of 25 to 50 things (actual things) that make you happy. Don’t try to find big, extravagant things, just the simple things like playing with your dog, smooching with your boo, a cup of hot chocolate – if it makes you smile it goes on the list.

Another way the Gratitude Journal can change your self-talk and negative thoughts is by making a list of the things you are grateful for. If your life is anything like mine, you have lots of the things to be thankful for that you don’t really take the time to think about. (Partly because you’ve moved some of those things to your bucket list to think about later.) For example: looking at the sky in various stages of light and darkness fills my bucket, I’m really thankful for house with skylights. I’m really thankful for a dog that doesn’t chew on things and doesn’t bark a lot. (I had a dachshund once that literally chewed the baseboard off the wall.) I’m so very thankful for a husband who let’s me be me and loves me.

The more bogged down in stressful thoughts you are, the longer your list should be. Try it! 50 things you are thankful for right now. Then you can take your Gratitude Journal up a notch by adding some pictures (photographs or magazine cut outs). You could also add quotes, perhaps something nice that you heard or read, or maybe something a loved one said to you.

Your Gratitude Journal is a great exercise just before bedtime. It moves your mind to a more joyful place which will help you rest and sleep. We all know that stressful thoughts love to show up when we lay our heard on the pillow. Its really important to replace those thoughts with positive ones and shut the negative down.

Last thing – add a screen shot of one of your Gratitude Journal pages to your phone, tablet, or computer wallpaper as a reminder that everything in your life isn’t difficult. Most of us have a lot more going on that’s good in our lives than bad, but we’re bent toward focusing on the problems. It’s time to focus on the pleasure. Let me know what you think and of keeping a Gratitude Journal. I’d love to know if it helps to make a positive difference in your life.

Hijacked by Your Brain: How to Free Yourself When Stress Takes Over
Good Days Start With Gratitude: A 52 Week Guide To Cultivate An Attitude Of Gratitude: Gratitude Journal