Self-talk is how you speak to yourself – your inner voice. Your inner voice is one way your brain combines your conscious and unconscious thoughts and translates them into feelings and experiences. Your experiences can be positive or negative depending on your inner voice. Your personality plays a part too - optimists and pessimists see their experiences quite differently. Self-talk can help shape your mindset and has the power to influence your overall well-being.
Jodie Voth, manager of Employee Assistance Services at Manitoba Blue Cross, explains: "Your internal voice is the voice you’ll hear the most over the course of your life, so it’s worth paying attention to what that voice says and how it sounds.”
Understanding negative self-talk
If you aren’t a natural optimist there are everyday scenarios where you may resort to using negative self-talk without even realizing it. Maybe you performed poorly on a test at school, or you overshot the green while playing a round of golf. If the first thing you say to yourself is, “I’m no good at this” or “I can’t do this,” you may need to reframe your thinking. Negative self-talk can be intrusive and repetitive - a cycle that becomes increasingly difficult to break. And it can do more harm than you think by negatively affecting your self-esteem and self-worth. At its worst, it can cause anxiety and depression.
“If you’re playing messages you don’t like in your mind,“switch the station” by choosing to think positive thoughts. And while you can’t choose unconscious or internalized thoughts, you can choose conscious thoughts and learn new patterns of thinking,” Voth says.
Keeping it positive
Positive self-talk can improve your overall well-being and help you feel good about yourself. Studies show that having an optimistic internal dialogue can help to:
- boost self-esteem
- decrease anxiety and stress
- improve immune function
- reduce pain
- improve overall physical health
- increase vitality
Positive self-talk can even help with athletic performance. If you have ever taken a workout class, you may recall the instructor using positive affirmations to help you keep momentum during a challenging session. Self-talk is the same idea – you can motivate yourself through tough times in life by keeping that inner voice positive.
And just like you would practice perfecting any new skill, you need to practice positive self-talk. While it may seem difficult at first to shift your inner dialogue, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Putting positive self-talk into practice
There are simple ways you can make your internal dialogue more positive. Start by learning to identify negative thinking patterns and try to be mindful of how you speak to yourself. When you become more aware of your inner voice, you can begin to challenge those negative thoughts and attempt to replace them with something neutral or positive. And don’t forget to say good things about yourself. It’s important to be kind to yourself.
It may sound too simple but making a slight change from “I can’t do this” to “I’ll give it my best shot” can make all the difference.
Counselling support from Manitoba Blue Cross
If you're experiencing mental health concerns, reach out for help.
Manitoba Blue Cross members with Employee Assistance Program or Individual Assistance Program coverage can get counselling support. Begin the process here.
Unsure of your coverage? Confirm your eligibility in your mybluecross® account.