We all have that niggling little voice inside our head that skews towards negative thoughts and self-talk.
Perhaps it’s a hard-wired human response to protect oneself from danger, assuming the worst in order to prepare and protect?
The fact of the matter is, negative self-talk is not as necessary for survival in the modern world as it was during caveman times. Studies reveal that negative self-talk is actually associated with higher stress levels and depression.
But learning how to shut down the Negative Nelly within can be difficult.
Brené Brown, PhD, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of The Gifts of Imperfection, has developed an effective technique to revert negative self-talk.
First, give your negative alter ego a name. It could be endearing, funny or downright rude – just name it.
Every time negative thoughts pop into your head, think of a physical box, put your alter ego in it, close the lid and think, “Right. Here comes Negative Nelly again.”
Clinical Psychologist Dr Stan Steindl says, “Learning to acknowledge when the negative self-talk is happening is half the challenge. When it is happening, it may seem very factual, but with time you may notice a pattern with this inner dialogue and realise it’s more of a habit than a reality.”
Challenging the negative thoughts will take some practice, but once you are aware of the physical and emotional cues, you can stop, breathe and reflect on what you are thinking.
Here are a few things to ask yourself that will help challenge the negativity:
1. What evidence is there for this thought? Is there any alternative way of looking at this? Is there any alternative explanation?
2. How would someone else think about the same situation?
3. Are my judgments based on how I felt rather than what I did?
4. Am I setting myself unrealistic or unobtainable standards?
5. Am I forgetting relevant facts or over-focusing on irrelevant facts?
6. What would I tell my best friend if they said the same thing?
If you are struggling with negative self-talk or depressed mood, talking to a mental health professional can help you move forward and start living the way you want to live. Find more information on challenging thoughts here.
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