Negative self-talk is one of the biggest thieves of happiness. Recognizing the triggers and patterns of negative self talk is the first step in overcoming it and enjoying a noticeably improved quality of life.
As Public Relations and Marketing Communications professionals, there are many negative arrows and questions on our radar. Why is my client unhappy? Will the media publish my press releases? Why is our cash flow poor? The list can go on and on.
Here’s how you can tell the differences between negative and positive self talk so you catch yourself when you are drifting from one into the other. Let’s start with the negative.
Common forms of negative self-talk
You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all of the positive ones. For example, you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were complimented for doing a speedy and thorough job.
That evening, you focus only on your plan to do even more tasks and forget about the compliments you received. That is called negative filtering
When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.
Or you lost in a pitch or bidding and you blame yourself for not putting up a good presentation.
This is when you automatically anticipate the worst in almost every situation. For example, you run into unusual traffic though you left home early. You automatically think that the rest of your day will be terrible.
You see things only as either good or bad. There is no middle ground. You feel that you have to be perfect or you’re a total failure.
All the above are expressions of negative self-talk and thinking.
How to focus on positive thinking
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice. Here are some ways of becoming a more positive thinker:
- Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
- Be open to humour. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
- Follow a healthy lifestyle. Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body.
- Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
- Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative  thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life.
When your state of mind is generally optimistic , you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.
Remember, “worry is a misuse of imagination.”