The voice of self-doubt in your mind can hold you back from leaving your comfort zone, pursuing a new passion, or achieving a goal you’ve been after. This negative internal narrative — which we at Thrive call the obnoxious roommate living in our heads — is something most of us grapple with. But in a recent TED Talk, Theresa Byrne, B.A, CMT, a self-defense expert and fourth degree Master Black Belt, offered some innovative tips for silencing our toxic thoughts that draw from her martial arts practice.
Byrne explains that by adjusting our physical body language, we send signals to our brain that reframe your internal dialogue, and help fight off the inner critic intent on putting us down. “In martial arts, we turn that inner fear into ferocity,” she says. Here are a few of Byrne’s Microsteps to help you get started:
Pause for a three-second inhale
In a moment where you feel overwhelmed by fear, staying centered can be difficult — and that’s where the importance of your breath comes in. “Breathing is the antidote for adrenaline,” Byrne explains — which is why she suggests taking a three-second inhale the next time you feel overcome with feelings of doubt. “In martial arts, if someone throws a punch at you, you want to move out of the way,” she explains, “But sometimes, you have to take a break.” Byrne notes that stopping to take a deep breath is something that can automatically calm you down, and it’s even more crucial to do so when the voice in your head is louder than usual. “Breath allows us to move through our bodies,” she adds. “Every one of us can afford to stop and take a three-second inhale.”
Vocalize an empowering mantra
Reciting a mantra — yes, out loud — can also help ignite a voice within yourself that fights against your inner critic, and Byrne says the key is having one ready in advance. “Come up with something you might say in the moment,” she explains. “You have to pre-plan it, because when your inner bully is activated or triggered, you can’t do it on the fly.” Two of Byrne’s favorite mantras are “I am powerful” and “I’ve got this,” because they allow you to talk to yourself in a way that’s both direct and confident. And finally, remember that the vocal declaration is meant to be a mindset shift, so it’s okay if it feels uncomfortable to say out loud. “The inner bully gets triggered by us doing something outside of our comfort zone,” she adds — “something that might feel unsafe.”
Try taking an “attention stance”
In martial arts, stances describe the different body positions and foot orientations, and Byrne says that an “attention stance” is when you stand tall with your feet planted on the ground and your shoulders pulled back. When you feel your inner critic taking over, Byrne recommends physically standing up, and adopting a firm attention stance with your head held high. The idea is to pay attention to how you feel in the moment, and to the space around you. “This stance is for you having the life that you want,” she adds. “This stance is for you.”
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