So you've decided it's time to change your inner talk? Well done for making such a positive decision for yourself.
On this page I share with you the ways I reversed my habit of negative self talk, and not only greatly eased my anxiety, but created a much happier and content life for myself. And you can do it too!
If you would like to read more about inner talk, or self talk as it also known, then please go to my pages called Self Talk and Negative Self Talk. On these pages I describe what inner talk is and why it has such a major impact on our life, as well as the different types of negative self talk.
So, back to changing that constant mind chatter.
Inner talk is a fact of life - we all do it. So if you're going to have constant thoughts going through your head, you may as well make most of them positive rather than negative.
Here are the steps I recommend to begin permanently changing the tone of your self talk:
1. Firstly, become more aware of the thoughts that you have.
For most of us, our mind chatter is so automatic that we don't even notice all the negativity streaming through our heads. The first thing we need to do is start noticing our thoughts - you'll probably be quite surprised at the volume, and the content.
The first thing I did was start keeping a 'Thought Diary'. Don't let the sound of this put you off - it doesn't need to be hard or time consuming.
This is a way of practising to become more conscious of your thoughts. I got myself a notebook and kept it on a kitchen bench at home so that it was easily accessible. You're not going to keep this exercise up for long if you have to go and get your notebook out of a drawer or cupboard every time you want to write.
Noticing your thoughts takes a bit of practice. You won't be aware of every single thought, but when you do notice a negative or unpleasant thought, write it down. It doesn't need to be word for word in great detail - a quick note will do. Don't obsess.
When you do notice a negative thought, do not pass any judgement on yourself for having this thought. Just notice it, write it down, then let it go.
Make notes in this way for at least several days. I feel that writing down your thoughts is much more effective than just trying to note them in your head.
An excellent way of developing the ability to become much more aware of, and also detached from, your thoughts is through the regular practice of meditation. I have been meditating regularly for 15 years and the benefits and changes it has brought to my life are absolutely enormous.
Please visit my pages on meditation to learn more.
2. Next, you are going to practice replacing your thoughts with a more positive ones.
After keeping this diary for a while, take a look at the negative thoughts you have recorded. Just accept them for what they are - just thoughts, nothing more. You may even notice a bit of a pattern or theme to your inner talk.
Now, you are going to look at each note one at a time, and come up with some ideas for more positive thoughts to replace the negative inner talk. But don't go to the completely opposite extreme - keep it believable for you.
For example, if one of your regular thoughts has been "I am such an idiot! I'm always making silly mistakes, everyone must think I'm stupid", doesn't need to suddenly become "I am a genius! I do everything perfectly and never make mistakes. People are in awe of me." Instead, replace it with something like "I always try to do my best, and it's only human to make mistakes some times. Everyone does. I believe in myself and my abilities."
As another example, if you have thoughts such as "I'm fed-up with being so anxious all the time, and I can never get a good night's sleep. Why can't I just relax? I'll probably be like this for the rest of my life", this could become something like "I am aware of my anxiety and how it affects me, but I am now learning how to deal with it, and I am getting better one day at a time. Life is good!" Make it something that feels believable to you.
Spend some time writing down ideas for more positive statements next to your list of negative thoughts. Again, I find it is much better to write things down, especially in the beginning, as this helps to anchor the ideas in your mind.
There are some guidelines when writing and using positive statements, known as counterstatements in this case because you are using them to counter your negative inner talk.
Rules for Creating Positive Counterstatements
Read through your list of positive statements on a regular basis so that they begin to feel familiar.
Using your Positive Counterstatements
This next step will require some practice and persistence. It probably took you years to develop your habit of negative inner talk, so it could take some time to turn it around. But we are talking weeks or months here, not years, so please be patient with yourself and don't give up. You will change your thinking habits!
Now that you are developing the ability to notice your negative self talk, and you have practised coming up with ideas for positive counterstatements, you are ready to start putting it into practice on a regular basis throughout your day.
As you go about your day, make it a game to catch yourself thinking negative thoughts. If you are feeling uneasy or less than relaxed and happy, you may have unpleasant thoughts streaming through your head that you weren't aware of until you stop and take notice.
As soon as you do become aware of a negative thought, say "Stop"
gently to yourself - do not get angry or annoyed with yourself. Now,
how irrational the thought probably was, and choose to replace it with a positive counterstatement that will refute what you were telling yourself. You can use one of the positive statements from your list, or start coming up with some others, depending on the thought that you had.
As you do this more, it will get easier and easier, and you will quickly be able to come up with positive counterstatements to say to yourself each time you notice that you are indulging in negative self talk.
Remember, anything takes practice and persistence, and changing your inner talk is no different.
3. Some other ideas to help you
My Rubber Band Technique
When I was going through this process, I started using a rubber band on my wrist to help stop my negative thoughts. Each time I noticed myself in a negative thought pattern, I would pull the rubber band on the soft inner part of my wrist, and it would sting as it snapped back down. I found it helpful, but it is up to you whether you use this idea or not - it's certainly not necessary.
The Use of Flower Essences
I have been using flower essences for many years, to help myself, my family and friends. They have wonderful healing qualities, and they can also be used to help change your negative thought patterns.
Some good essences to try might be:
Boronia - this helps to break the pattern of repetitive thoughts and obsessions.
Sunshine Wattle - this helps those who are stuck in the past, and encourages optimism.
White Chestnut - similar to Boronia in that it helps those tormented by worrying and unwanted thoughts that are difficult to stop.
Dog Rose or Aspen - these are both for easing general fears.
Mimulus - to help with specific fears, such as fear of public speaking. Grey Spider Flower is also for fears that create terror.
These are just some general ideas for inner talk. However, choosing flower essences is a very individual matter, as each person is different. If you would like to learn about this method of healing, please visit my pages on Flower Essences.