Adapted from Love Your Age: The Small-Step Solution to a Better, Longer, Happier Life (National Geographic 2018):
I’m a big believer in talking to myself. In fact, I’ve made “me” my #1 closest advisor. And I’m not crazy! Lots of experts think self-talk can be a powerful ally for your happiness and health. But if the voices in your head are negative, they can actually decrease your capacity for happiness, undermine your best instincts, and create a cascade of mental and physical problems. Instead, learn how to harness the power of self-talk for good.
Pay attention to any negative statements you say to yourself, escially if you repeat them over and over. Things like “I’m so disorganized” or “I can’t do anything right” can become so ingrained in your subconscious that you don’t even realize you’re saying them.
Identify where and when these statements originated. Whether it’s something that was said to you, or something you first said to yourself as a reaction to a painful experience, finding the source of negative self-talk can help you stop it.
Realize that these statements aren’t helping you move forward. Some criticisms may have once had some basis in reality, but many are totally false. Either way, continually rehashing them doesn’t allow you to enjoy your life as it is today, so let them all go. If you can, forgive the person who first said them. And forgive yourself for believing them.
Be proactive. “Confirmation bias” describes the brain’s tendency to seek out evidence to support the beliefs it already holds. You can use that bias to your advantage by replacing any negative self-talk with positive statements (even if you don’t quite believe them yet!). If you repeatedly tell your brain, “I’m confident and competent,” for example, it will be more likely to notice events that demonstrate your best qualities.
Repeat your affirmations daily. Say them out loud at least every morning and night, and repeat them in your head while waiting in line, exercising, or driving. Chances are the old negative phrases have been repeating themselves while you were doing these activities, so it’s time to take charge and replace them with positive thoughts.
Bottom line? The way you talk to yourself actually matters, so choose your words carefully.
Want more tips to live better, longer, happier? Order a copy of Love Your Age right here.
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