Your chatter matters – the update
I don’t know about you, but my head is one noisy, busy place!! There are not many moments in my day when I’m not aware of a constant stream of thoughts. Some are utterly banal, others quite elaborate and exhausting, and some less than self-compassionate. And all those thoughts are a good thing honestly, that our brain is constantly churning out
Our actions are inspired by our thoughts, self-talk has been described as, “the key to cognitive control” (Bunker, Williams and Zinsser, 1993) and therefore plays a crucial role in not only what we achieve, how well we achieve it, but also in how we feel about ourselves.
There are 4 types of self-talk:
- Positive: “I feel great in this dress”
- Negative: “these clothes are too tight and I feel fat, frumpy and my life is a disaster”
- Instructional: “exhale on exertion”
- Neutral: “apart from milk and bread, what else do I need to buy from Coles on the way home?”
It’s really easy to focus on the negative chatter.
Somehow that voice booms louder and clearer and oftentimes it becomes something of a downward spiral. You obsess over one thing and suddenly you’ve gone from having a bloated premenstrual day into telling yourself in no uncertain terms that you are a lazy, cellulite-ridden failure who can’t control what she eats and therefore your life is all but over. Regardless of the fact that your hair is shining and beautiful, your skin clear and bright and in real terms there is no earthly way that you have gained 5kgs overnight!
The key to getting a handle on self-talk is this: –
- Become aware of the chatter: Spend some time listening to the conversations in your head. You may even need to write them down. This will help bring those positive conversations into the light and it will help bring some perspective on the negative ones. It will also show you how you might use neutral self-talk to block out what is going on around you.
- Identify that ‘Inner Critic’: Once you are aware of the conversations in your head, then you’re able to do something about it. Start to question those negative thoughts. Can you really have changed so much overnight? What would you say to your BFF if they told you what you’ve just told yourself? Where is the perspective in your self-talk? Some people make a physical note of how many times they allow a negative thought to settle – putting a rubber band on your wrist every time something enters your head. If you then decide there’s some merit to something you’ve told yourself, well ok then, what positive changes can you make right now to do something about it?
- Shift your perspective: So, here’s the BIG one. It takes a lot of practice and isn’t always easy. The first step is to catch that negative self-talk before it has a chance to spiral. Have an immediate response like “stop” or “change” or “switch” that you repeat to yourself to in the first instance halt any further negative chat. Saying out loud can also help. Then, the trick is turning it around. Some people have standard positive responses – positive affirmations – that they use almost as a mantra that they repeat over and over until that positivity takes over. Some people learn to give greater power to their positive voice to stand up and counter the negative thought with a positive alternative.
If it’s time for you to look at your self-talk, we have a team of therapists at Thea Baker Wellbeing available – please reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org / 03 9077 8194.