Well-Being//

This Daily Exercise Will Help You Stop Your Negative Self-Talk

It’s time to evict the obnoxious roommate living in your head.

Image by filistimlyanin/ Getty Images
Image by filistimlyanin/ Getty Images

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves determine how we see our own potential, and how we ultimately present ourselves to others. Unfortunately, most of us grapple with negative self-talk (picture an obnoxious roommate living inside our heads), which, left unaddressed, can hold us back from reaching our full potential. In a new piece in Harvard Health Publishing, journalist and speech coach Steve Calechman says we struggle to silence our inner critic because we spiral into “internal beefs” — “turning imagined conversations and arguments over and over” in our minds.

On the days where your obnoxious roommate’s argument feels louder than usual, here’s a three-step guide to silencing it, so that you can get out of your own head and continue on the path to success.

Surround yourself with positivity

While it’s easy to let our inner critic impact our mood and our thoughts, Sara Lazar, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, argues that spending time with others can help get us out of our own heads, and can help distract us from some of that negativity in our minds. “We all have that voice,” she tells Calechman. “That voice is a distraction and drowns out everything else.” Instead, when we’re feeling down on ourselves, Lazar suggests we engage with others — especially those that bring out and see the best in us — to help welcome positive thoughts into our minds.

Imagine the worst

When we imagine a scenario beforehand, we tend to assume the worst will happen, which prevents us from taking the leap that we’re often well-equipped to take. Instead of jumping ship as soon as your fear arises, Calechman urges us to play out the conversation in our heads, and ask ourselves how we would feel if things don’t go our way. If you’re afraid to pitch a new idea at a meeting, for example, play out the feeling of getting shot down — and see that it’s not as daunting as you might have thought.  “[Ask yourself] what’s the worst realistic thing that could happen,” Calechman suggests. “After you imagine the possibilities, they can feel less overwhelming.”

List three things you appreciate about yourself

Research suggests talking to yourself out loud can allow you to hear your thoughts more clearly, and therefore process them better. Sharon Salzberg, the bestselling author of Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation, suggests taking note of three things you appreciate each day. By verbalizing the things that we’re able to do, our minds will adjust its focus away from the things we’re unable to do. And don’t worry about feeling strange — even professional athletes are told to talk to themselves before games (Science shows that doing so can actually improve physical and mental performance.)  “It focuses [our minds] on what we do have,” Salzberg says, “Rather than what we don’t have.”

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