Mental Health Moment: Releasing Negative Self-Talk
“Did I lock the front door?”
“I aced that exam!”
“These jeans make my ankles look goofy.”
That’s just a small sampling of the thoughts that can run through our heads. These thoughts are positive, negative, or anywhere in between, but sometimes negative back-chatter can outtalk the rest. This can lead us to withhold the kindness we deserve. The good news is, you can create new habits, which will support a more positive headspace and a healthier you. “Alright, how can I do that?” your mind asks. Setting up a good ol’ fashioned self-care routine is a great way to start.
Self-care is a popular term that’s used often but not always clearly defined. Malissa Thompson, licensed physical therapist specializing in Myofascial Release & CranioSacral Therapy and owner of Revive Health and Wellness, describes it as “the practice of taking action to preserve or improve our health.” She goes on to say that this means engaging in both the physical and the emotional aspects of our own wellbeing. “We have a lot of tools within that can really empower us to feel better,” Malissa says.
While you’re on your quest for an empowering practice, your mind might jump in and say, “I’ll never find anything that’ll work for me.” That cranky talk is yet again putting the brakes on your desire to treat yourself with loving care. “Negative self-talk is that endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run around in our heads. At times those thoughts are on autopilot, but when we recognize them then we can address them,” Malissa says.
Speaking negatively to ourselves is a deterrent to our well-being. Dr. Gilles says that this kind of talk can “get in the way of getting our needs met, meeting our goals, and living in accordance with our personal values.” A way to recognize this chatter is to “ask ourselves what we are thinking and draw those thoughts into our consciousness,” Dr. Gilles says. “This sets us on the path to awareness, and that’s when change can take place.” Malissa says to ask yourself this question, “‘Is this thought serving me?’ If the answer is no, then you can replace it with something more appropriate or more positive.”
“OK, then,” your mind says, “how can I start this self-care thing?” Experiment with activities or modalities that appeal to you like taking walks in nature, cooking, or playing a sport. These are all ways that promote well-being. For those looking for a little more inspiration, Malissa suggests working with your breathing. “It helps reconnect us and keep us present. Go through this sequence five times: Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of two, and breathe out for a count of seven. It’s simple and helps calm the mind.”
It’s good to note that while trying out new strategies your healing time doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s. Dr. Beth Simon, psychologist and supervision and training coordinator for Mandala House, says, “It’s important to remember that we are talking about self-care, and because humans are unique individuals, this will likely look different for each person.” So put on your best explorer gear and be patient with yourself while you search for an outlet that resonates. It’s a good plan to check in with how you feel after each activity. Do you feel recharged, nurtured, or more grounded? When you connect with a ritual that works, this will become a cornerstone to establishing an essential component of your ever-evolving self-care journey.
Studies have shown that some of the perks of having a consistent self-care habit include improved mood and increased positive thinking. “Some of the benefits that we see are people getting their needs met, meeting their goals, participating in healthier relationships, and experiencing decreased burnout,” Dr. Gilles says. This is due to maintaining an established practice. “Having self-care routines already in place before we need them can help to avoid crises. Schedule time to engage in the activities that you find replenishing,” Dr. Simon says.
“Self-care is the act of listening carefully to the self and making efforts to meet one’s own needs,” Dr. Simon says. Caring for ourselves may look different for everyone but will feel good to all. Establishing a consistent practice brings new levels of awareness and an opportunity to treat yourself with the care and kindness you deserve.