Confession: Monday morning I called myself a marshmallow because I had to take a week off of training due to a pulled hamstring. I was frustrated and lethargic because I wasn’t getting my normal exercise endorphins and I was annoyed with myself. Here is the thing, if my best friend hurt her hamstring and had to take a week off training, could you imagine how much it would hurt her feelings if I called her a marshmallow? I would never do that. So why would I say that to myself?
Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.”
But I’m going to take that one step further. One of those 5 people is the little voice in your head.
? Mind blown.. I know. Maybe your own self talk has more of an impact on your behaviors, mood and stress level than you think. “The more often you tell yourself that you are unsuccessful, unattractive or incapable the more likely these thoughts will become automatic thoughts.” [note] Mindset Specialist Level 1 Certification, Nutrition Coaching Institute, pg 33.[/note] So if your negative self talk becomes automatic then it probably impacts you way more than you think.
Here are some examples of negative self talk I hear all the time from friends and clients:
“I hate that picture, I look gross.”
“I have no willpower and I fail over and over.”
“I am not strong like other people.”
“Why do I suck at this?”
“I hate my <insert body part here>.”
Changing your self talk is worth it! And here is why: Positive self talk can lower stress. Just reframing a thought into “I can do this.” can bring down anxiety levels. According to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking can even improve your physical health and increase life span. Need another more tangible reason to improve your self talk? Your thoughts can impact the outcome of what you are trying to accomplish. You know this is true. Have you ever prepared to do something hard and then visualized it all going terribly wrong and then that is what happened? You shaped that outcome! It works both ways, positive self talk or thoughts can drive success because you are more confident, calm and focused.
?Ok… how do we improve self talk? I did some research and picked a few action items that I know most of us can start doing.
#1 Identify the negative thoughts when they are happening. If these thoughts are automatic you may not be able to stop them right away. But when they pop up, call them for what they are. In you head you hear, “I suck at pull-ups.” STOP, think about what you just said to yourself, acknowledge it is crappy and then try to reframe it. “I am working hard at getting better at pull-ups.”
#2 Positive affirmations- if you have never done this before, if feels weird at first. But set aside some time every day to pump yourself up. Here is a resource with positive affirmations and how you can incorporate them into your routine. There are also some great ones for sale on Amazon that come like a deck of cards.
#3 Don’t let others reinforce your negative thoughts. Put some distance between yourself and people, places and things that make you feel like crap. Do some soul searching to identify these sources of negative thoughts.
#4 Practice- Just like any other new habit or skill, positive self talk will take practice. You will get better at it the more you do it. It may take time, just keep working at it.
In closing, I want to share one last important thing I thought about while writing this post. Most of the research I read on self talk says that it is a learned behavior. Maybe this is the most motivating reason to improve your self talk. As a parent or friend or spouse, your self talk can negatively or positively influence someone you love. Positive self talk can be contagious, sneeze those germs everywhere.