Have you ever noticed how you talk to yourself? For many us there can be a constant stream of negative self-talk and this can have a debilitating impact on confidence and mental health.
Your thoughts are things, they have energy. How you talk to yourself matters. Whether the thoughts are limiting… “No one cares” or they are bolstering … “I am loved” – both change your biochemistry instantly. Once the mind has a thought, the rest is history. There is a cascading flow of chemicals, either stress hormones in the case of a negative thought or feel good hormones such as oxytocin with positive, loving thoughts. The mind-body connection is powerful dynamic one which shapes who we are and who we are becoming.
The interesting challenge is that to take charge of our thoughts, we need to go against our biology. Research shows we tend to have a “negativity bias” in our internal chatter. This means that most of the time we are chatting away, it is not making us feel better or strengthening our self-worth. It is in the truest sense doing the opposite, eroding our sense of confidence and connection. So deeply is engrained the habit of replacing positive thoughts with negative thoughts, we do not even realise it. It is the brain’s inherent way of keeping us safe from perceived threat.
Most of our thoughts can happen outside our conscious awareness. The unconscious mind can process up to 40 million bits of information in a moment, whereas the conscious mind processes 40,000 bits. Often our reactions can come from our unconscious habitual thinking. According to Dr. David Rock, author of “Change your Brain, and Change your Life”, being the director of our own minds, means noticing and deciding who and what is on your internal stage.
It is impossible to not have some negative thoughts, as your brain is wired for it. The challenge is reducing spending too much of your time there because these negative thought patterns probably are not serving your best interests. The key is when you realise that your thinking is detrimental it is important not to give yourself a tough time. This will only fuel the inner critic who needs little encouragement to voice a less than productive use of energy.
Another way is to be Ok with being negative, notice it and choose not to dwell there, by setting time limits and ask what use this is.
I use the simple way of “saying enough” … I drop in regularly to watch and listen to my inner chatter. What is the chatter like? What words are being used? Is a positive or negative conversation going on? A while ago, I found a tendency for using words that exaggerate and over dramatize. For example, habitually using the phrase “I’ve been so busy, rushed off my feet,” whenever people asked how I was going. This unconscious response was like a badge of honour and was activating a stress response. To change this effect, the word busy was deleted from my internal and external vocab. Now I choose different options, such as “I am many things to do” or “I’m a little stretched at the moment”. Another vocab habit was to over emphasis my feelings and reactions. When I dislike something, I found myself habitually saying “I hate that!” This is an extreme emotion for something that I simply don’t like, so I have changed my language to “I dislike that…” or “I have a distaste for that…” By reducing the semantic density of my emotional vocab, it has helped to keep to reduce my reactivity, and create more mental space.
If you are keen to discover more…
The Chatter That Matters – Your Words Are Your Power, by Dr. Margaret Martin, offers tools to pick and choose our train of thought constructively. It is written to be an easy-to-use guide to help you to: “reclaim control of your thoughts… by getting rid of the negative mind chatter, improving the chatter you share with others and structuring. the all-important protective chatter ” These are all components that make up “the chatter that really matters.”
Playing Big – A Practical Guide for Brilliant Women Like You, by Tara Mohr is a program for playing big from the inside out. It is a practical guide to moving past self-doubt and creating what you want to create – whether in your career, your community, or in a passion you pursue outside of work. It is about living with a greater sense of freedom to express your voice and pursue your aspirations.
Get to know the voices in your head, and which ones to follow.
Tony Robbins, Author and Life Coach.