Dr Peggy Marshall

Thinking Positively

“A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
-Marcus Aurelius

Dr Peggy

Dr Peggy

This year had been challenging for many of us.  Despite these challenges, we all have a hunger to engage in successful endeavors whether these endeavors are at home or at work.  Success and optimism are critically linked.  Optimists set more goals; put more effort into attaining goals; stay engaged in the face of adversity and rise above the obstacles more easily.  The great news is that you can determine your level of optimism by what you say about the events that happen to you daily.

Every day we are faced with events that impact us.  It’s entirely up to each of us whether we choose a pessimist’s attitude or take a more optimistic route and create a challenging and fulfilling life.  One of the things that interferes most with our ability to stay the course towards optimism and success is negative self talk.  Self-talk is a term that refers to the voices that chatter away in your head.  For example, when you wake up each morning and look into the mirror, what are the voices saying?  Do you need a haircut, need to lose weight, or need any number of improvements, etc.?   Then when you are on your way to work, watching the morning news, or talking with a spouse, does the chatter affirm the positive or focus on the negative?

 When self-talk is positive, it can uplift you when things aren’t going your way, bolster your self-confidence to try new activities and deepen relationships. But negative self-talk, on the other hand, can interfere with performance, put a black cloud over relationships and erode your self-esteem.

Self-talk has a number of sources.  It can come from others-originating with messages received in childhood from parents, teachers and/or friends.  It also comes from our successes and disappointments with life-things we remember about ourselves.  The key to remember is that since it’s our self talk, we own it.  And if we own it, we can change it.

We often don’t recognize how powerful self-talk truly is.  The following statements demonstrate just how powerful self-talk can be:

  • Self-talk is happens continuously-much of which goes unrecognized unless we make efforts to consciously focus on it.
  • Self-talk happens in the moment yet through continual thinking creates the future.  Thoughts are magnetic and create more of what we are thinking about.
  • The mind-body reaction interprets self-talk as being real.  Your mind does not have the capacity to determine which thoughts are true or not-instead accepting all thoughts/talk as true.
  • The higher the stress, the more likely that negative self-talk is increasing.  This is particularly true if you have past habits about negative thinking when you are experiencing stressful situations.
  • You very rarely push back on your self when talking negatively.  Most people are so conditioned to negative self-talk that they do not even realize they are engaged in it.
  • Negative self-talk can increase toxins in your body.  During times of stress, your body produces energy to address the stressors and when this energy is not used to deal with the stressors it leaves your body with a number of toxins circulating through it.

Ways to Change Self-Talk

1) Notice throughout the day what you are saying to yourself.  Are the thoughts positive and uplifting or are you focused on what’s wrong and not working.  Some people keep a log of their thoughts/self-talk throughout the day in order to get a true picture of what’s happening in this area.

2) Make a list of your most common negative thoughts/self-talk.  What messages came from other people?  Which messages are coming from your own experiences?  If your self-talk is predominantly negative, determine what judgments have been made by you or by others.  Then challenge these judgments.  Are they really true?  More importantly how do these judgments make your feel?  Typically, they create a spiral downward of self-confidence and/or self-esteem.  Challenge yourself with “Do I really want to feel this way?

3.  Use words of encouragement and possibilities to challenge your self-talk.  Instead of “I’ll never get all this done”, say “I am in the process of completing all my tasks.”  When overwhelmed by all that needs to be done, determine what absolutely has to be accomplished and what can wait.  Don’t skimp on time for your own daily recovery-rest and relaxation!

4.  Negative self-talk zaps your energy.  When you are feeling drained, consider a couple of options for raising energy.  Go for a brisk walk around the block.  You can also practice deep breathing-just a minute or two of breathing in and out to the count of 8 can change your energy.  Watching comedies or finding something to laugh about will also lift your energy.

This month practice listening to your self-talk.  Change the easiest messages and let the stronger ones go for now-you can come back to them later.  And don’t forget to keep your energy up!

Here’s to your success!

Dr. Peggy