Flick the switch on your self-talk with these positive language activities
Isn’t it wonderful how our brains work? One minute you’re in a conversation with a friend and the next you start to second guess yourself. The brain’s negative self-talk game is strong.
Psychologist Dr Bronwyn Coward wants you to know that this is totally normal as our brains are constantly talking to us – they’re like a radio that’s always on.
“That’s the way the brain is designed. As long as it’s not impacting your daily life and functioning, then it’s normal and how it’s meant to be. Where it can become more detrimental is when the brain gets stuck on the same message – usually a negative one,” explains Dr Bronwyn.
If you find negative thoughts creeping in, which we all do at some point, Dr Bronwyn has some positive language activities for you. These can help you break the circuit and flick your self-talk switch.
Why positive language matters
Let’s be clear about one thing. Focusing on positive language isn’t about embracing positivity at all times. That’s the definition of toxic positivity.
Nobody can be positive all of the time. There’s a big difference between validation and hope vs toxic positivity.
It’s thought that stress-inducing hormones may be released into the body when negative words are used and that positive thinking may increase our ability to deal with stress. From dealing with job loss to coping with moving, positive thinking may have a role to play.
The truth is positive language can be very powerful. That’s whether we’re using that language when communicating with others or in our own self-talk such as around body positive words. Just remember that whoever you’re communicating with has their own self-talk radio playing!
This is what negative self-talk looks like
According to Dr Bronwyn, our brains are all designed to have quite similar thinking styles. And that means our mechanisms of negative self-talk are also very alike.
She believes, in her experience, this negative self-talk has the power to impact on your productivity by distracting you from where your focus needs to be.
So, what does that negative self-talk look like? Here are some frequent examples that Dr Bronwyn sees:
Jumping to conclusions
This is when your brain makes assumptions before you have all the facts. An example of this is reading into a comment without having any other evidence to support your assumptions.
Do you ever immediately jump to the worst case scenario? A simple event like missing the train might lead to thoughts that you’ll lose your job for being late to work. That’s catastrophising.
Things are rarely one way or the other, but this type of self-talk and thinking prevents you from seeing all the possible variety in between. Instead, you find yourself stuck in the extremes.
Should and must thinking
With this type of thinking you can put a lot of pressure, demands and expectations on yourself. Examples of should and must thinking are when you regularly say things like, “I should be doing that…” or “I must be doing this…”
Hacks that may help make all the difference
If you want to know how to train your mind to be more positive, Dr Bronwyn says that the answer is in awareness and normalising the behaviour.
“Your brain is going to engage in negative thinking and self-talk – that’s how it’s wired. The best positive language activities are to actually accept the realities of negative thinking and to be aware of it. When you normalise it and have awareness of it, it’s much easier to reframe your thinking,” Dr Bronwyn advises.
Rather than any particular switch words for positive thinking, Dr Bronwyn suggests challenging yourself on your thinking when you notice negative self-talk creeping in.
“If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, think about the evidence you have to support your assumptions. Is it actually true? Or is it just your brain doing its thing? In this way, you’re challenging your thoughts to really get to the bottom of what’s going on,” Dr Bronwyn explains.
The next time you find your brain’s negative self-talk getting louder, try these tips to help shift towards a more positive mindset:
- Accept your negative thinking as normal.
- Be aware of negative thinking when it happens.
- Challenge yourself on your thoughts to ensure they are based on facts.
- Reframe your thinking so it is more positive and reflect on your thoughts through meditation or gratitude affirmations.
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Dr Bronwyn Coward is a registered Psychologist, an endorsed Clinical Neuropsychologist and an AHPRA board-approved supervisor who draws on over a decade of experience to bring solution-based assessments to her clients.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board August 2021.