Everyone has thoughts running through their minds almost constantly—and that "self-talk" can be positive or negative.
For example, when you make a mistake in public, are you more apt to:
- Get a sick sense of embarrassment and say to yourself, "I'm such an idiot, why can't I ever do anything right?" or
- Kindly laugh at yourself and say, "Well, that was embarrassing but everybody makes mistakes."
If the majority of thoughts that run through your head are negative and self-critical, you are probably less optimistic than someone whose thoughts are largely positive. There are proven benefits of optimism:
- In a 25-year study of 99 Harvard University students, those who were optimists at age 25 were significantly healthier at ages 45 and 60 than those who were pessimists.
- Optimistic breast cancer patients have better outcomes than pessimistic patients
Optimists don't necessarily think the world or they themselves are perfect, but they take things in stride and are more forgiving of their own and other people's mistakes. They tend to enjoy life more than people who expect the worst and look for it in every event.
The good news is that positive thinking and self-talk can not only be developed but have proven benefits:
- Studies have shown that cognitive therapy—which involves reframing a person's thought processes—works at least as well as antidepressants in helping people with mild to moderate depression.
- People with positive self-talk are better at managing stress—because they tend to view negative situations as "challenging" rather than "unfair" or "impossible."
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Becoming aware of the automatic negative thoughts that go through your head is the first step toward changing them.
Don't say things to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Do you call other people idiots and yell at them for making mistakes? When negative thoughts about a situation or yourself crop up, pause and do a reality check. Try saying to yourself, "Wow, I'm really insulting myself—I wouldn't let anyone else talk to me this way, so why do I do it to myself?"
If you're not sure how to practice positive self-talk or develop greater optimism, an EAP counselor can provide coaching and help you understand underlying attitudes that may be getting in your way.
Pathways to Well Being contact VITAL WorkLife at 800.383.1908.