Dr. Shad Helmstetter of the Self-Talk Institute: “Let’s say you decide to practice positive self-talk by listening to it”

Let’s say you decide to practice positive self-talk by listening to it. When you listen to the right kind of self-talk, you immediately begin to receive messages about yourself that are positive and uplifting, and all of them increase your feelings of gratitude and appreciation — you realize you’re incredibly glad to be alive. As we all know, […]

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Let’s say you decide to practice positive self-talk by listening to it. When you listen to the right kind of self-talk, you immediately begin to receive messages about yourself that are positive and uplifting, and all of them increase your feelings of gratitude and appreciation — you realize you’re incredibly glad to be alive.


As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shad Helmstetter, PhD.. Dr. Helmstetter is the founder of The Self-Talk Institute and the new Self-Talk Plus App. He is the author of over 25 books in the area of positive self-talk including “Negative Self-Talk and How to Change It” and “What to Say when you Talk to Yourself.”


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

Before I entered the field of human behavior, I was a foreign language interpreter for the United States government. Later, as I studied motivational behavior, I began to recognize that each of us learns to think and speak in an internal ‘language’ of success or failure. I developed the hypothesis that with the right self-talk, we could actually train our brain to think in the positive, just like learning a new language. That turned out to be correct.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I received a letter from a young man who had not only lost his job, but his wife and family had also left him, and he felt he had nothing to live for. He wrote to tell me that was sitting on his sofa late one night, holding a pistol, and contemplating suicide. He was about to get up to find the bullets to load his gun when he heard something on the television that was on in the background. I happened to be on television that night saying that what we do in our lives is the result of programs we got that were wired into our brains, and that if we had a lot of negative programs, we could rewire our brain by listening to positive self-talk. What he heard was just enough to keep him from killing himself, and he decided to find out more about self-talk.

When he wrote to me some time later, he had his wife back, his kids back, and his job back, and he wrote that positive self-talk was turning his life around. Stories like that let me know that my work in self-talk was on the right track.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite quote is actually one that I wrote many years ago, and I included it in my first book, What to Say When You Talk to Your Self. The quote is, “You are everything that is, your thoughts, your life, your dreams come true. You are everything you choose to be. You are as unlimited as the endless universe.”

That quote sums up my belief in individuals and in the future. No one is born to fail. We were all born to succeed in life; that’s how we were designed. The more we can override the negative programs we get along the way, the more we open ourselves up to the opportunities in front of us, and the more we live up to the promise we were born with in the first place.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl showed that the success of our personal world is controlled almost entirely by our own perceptions — it all comes down to the beliefs and attitudes we choose to hold. That had a strong influence on my work, because it identifies the difference between people who overcome challenges and those who don’t. The exciting thing is that we can change our attitudes by changing our programs.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Because of my background in foreign languages, I began writing and recording positive self-talk programs in the 1980’s and have continued to produce positive self-talk for people ever since. Listening to self-talk actually rewires the brain with the new messages, just like learning a foreign language by listening to it. Over the years people have listened to self-talk cassettes, then self-talk CDs, then self-talk downloads, and then by streaming self-talk programs on their phones. And now, we’ve just completed an incredible app, SelfTalkPlus.com, that let’s people listen to positive self-talk anytime, anywhere, in thirty different subject areas, in 125 different self-talk sessions. The app also gives the listener help and support with on-going coaching sessions. All of that, and you can hold it in the palm of your hand. That’s very exciting.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mentor was my father. He did not understand the neuroscience of self-talk and positivity, but very early on, he made sure that I learned to keep my own attitude up, confident, and optimistic. He lived until he was 93 years old, and he was still planning for the future, and still smiling.

As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

Gratitude is the conscious recognition of someone else, or of the world itself, sharing its blessings with us. Gratitude is one of the few human emotions that can only be experienced in the positive. Gratitude is not just being thankful, it is being aware of being thankful.

I wrote a book entitled The Secret Words of Success about the most helpful and important words in our language, and in that book, I included the word gratitude. In it I said: When you’re living in a state of gratitude, life itself is both more giving, and forgiving; seeing your world with gratitude, your glass is always half full, rather than half empty. In place of over-focusing on the difficulties of life, you see the value and the benefits of being alive — and of being given countless opportunities to grow. There is a great power in thankfulness, but you only bring that power to life when you have a mindset of gratitude — which is one of the things you can do right now, or at any time, to make your life work better.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

The primary reason we fail to feel gratitude is that our negative self-talk literally wires gratitude out of our brain. People who think in the negative wire their brain’s right prefrontal cortex to be stronger. And that’s not good, because that’s a part of the brain that closes off our options and causes us to be afraid, or to hide, or flee — which is the opposite of feeling blessed or grateful. People who think in the negative actually grow more neural networks and connections in the part of the brain that turns off gratitude.

On the other hand, people who think in the ‘positive’ grow more neural connections in the left prefrontal cortex of their brains. That’s good, because that a part of the brain that searches for options and helps you find solutions and peace of mind. That’s where gratitude lives in the brain, and positive thinking makes that part of the brain stronger.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life? YOU CAN MAKE THIS ABOUT POSITIVE SELF-TALK.

Let’s say you decide to practice positive self-talk by listening to it. When you listen to the right kind of self-talk, you immediately begin to receive messages about yourself that are positive and uplifting, and all of them increase your feelings of gratitude and appreciation — you realize you’re incredibly glad to be alive. That starts a ‘cycle of gratitude.’ When you’re grateful for something, that opens you up to the possibility of receiving more, which makes you even more grateful for what you have, which prepares you for more, and the positive, upward cycle grows. You can prove that simple process by trying it for a day. Just like you can prove the opposite by hating the world and feeling left out for a day. You can see immediately where that takes you.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

There is a direct relationship between being grateful and having a greater sense of well-being. People who practice gratitude feel more fortunate, they have a more positive attitude, they overcome hardships — especially emotional hardships — more easily, they get along better with others, they are thankful for today, and they are optimistic about the possibilities of the future. All of these improve mental wellness, and all of them increase with gratitude.

From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive?

This is one of the times when listening to positive self-talk can make an immediate difference. As an example, there is a self-talk program called “Believing in Incredible You!” It is one of the most popular self-talk programs I’ve ever recorded, and tens of thousands of people have listened to it whenever they’ve felt down. That program is like your inner coach telling you — non-stop for 10 minutes — what you can do, and how good you really are, and how you’re on top, in tune, in touch, and going for it! When you hear that about yourself, often enough, it doesn’t make any difference if your old programs didn’t always believe it. We know from neuroscience that repetition rewires the brain. Listening to self-talk that is repeated, positive, and uplifting, actually rewires your brain to believe in yourself. The more you listen, the truer it becomes.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

I would invite everyone to go to SelfTalkPlus.com, download the app, and listen to positive self-talk for themselves. It doesn’t take any time out of your day to do that, because listening to self-talk works best when you play it in the background and go about your day. So you can listen while you’re getting ready in the morning, or when you’re driving in the car, or walking, or working out, or going to sleep at night. The important thing is, it is virtually impossible to listen to self-talk and not feel gratitude. Since gratitude is a habit, the more you feel gratitude, the more ‘wired in’ and natural it becomes, and the more gratitude becomes a part of your everyday life, no matter what’s happening.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

That’s actually what I’ve spent the last forty years of my life working at. I started researching, and then writing about, self-talk in the early 1980s, and since that time many hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world have learned to change their self-talk, and make many positive changes in their lives as a result. My books today are published in many languages and in over 74 countries, which is a testament not to my writing, but to the fact that my readers have found in those books something so foundational that they made it a part of their lives. Today, because of medical imaging technology, we can actually watch what happens in the brain when people change their self-talk. They are rewiring their brains for peace of mind, success, and well-being, instead of the old kind of self-talk, the negative kind, that wired their brains for stress, anxiety and failure. Imagine a world in which everyone saw themselves as the incredible, unlimited beings that they really are. We’ve come a long way, but we’re just getting started.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

You can follow my work at www.SelfTalkPlus.com and at www.ShadHelmstetter.com

https://www.facebook.com/drshadhelmstetter
https://www.linkedin.com/in/shadhelmstetter/
https://www.instagram.com/drshadhelmstetter/

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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