When you consider that you spend considerably more time with your “self” than anyone else, it pays to have your thoughts in check. What you say to yourself in your head goes on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Therefore it is no wonder that what we say to ourselves has a big influence on how we feel and what we do.
Our bodies react as if all our thoughts were real. What we say to ourselves in our head has physical outcomes. For example, when we think “Who am I kidding, I can’t increase my physical activity”, we feel less able to function and put our bodies under stress. This makes it difficult for us to get up and start. We should do whatever we can to not let our negative thoughts make it harder on ourselves.
Negative thoughts get the loudest when you need them the least. When the pressure is on, we revert to default mode. For instance, when learning something new we become more stressed than usual. When feeling stressed, our negative thoughts can often increase which is self-defeating. By listening to thoughts such as, “I’ll never reach my activity goal”, “Other people can lose weight and get fit, but I will never be able to do that” . You will ultimately talk yourself into believing that you will not be able to achieve what it is you set out to do, and often this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Our thoughts can be a major positive force in our lives. While negative thoughts are a part of life for us all, so too are positive thoughts. The thoughts which are strongest and have the most effect on us are the ones we pay most attention to. While there will be times when things just won’t go our way, we have a choice as to which thoughts we pay most attention to. Do we let negative thoughts de-rail our efforts all together or do we learn to roll with our difficulties and pick ourselves up and go again?
You talk to yourself in ways you would never think of talking to someone else. If you walked up to someone else and said, “You will never be fit enough to walk 5 km” they would be very upset. However, it’s not uncommon to have those kinds of thoughts going on inside your own mind, and these thoughts do not help you to achieve your goals. Pay attention to your thoughts, they have more impact on your actions than you may realise.
One of the greatest obstacles of self-talk is being able to identify negative thoughts. Once this is accomplished the next step is to make a conscious effort to introduce positive thoughts and eliminate negative thoughts.
Thought Stopping is the most common technique used to introduce positive thoughts and eliminate negative thoughts. To put a stop to negative thoughts, follow these steps:
1. Become aware of negative thoughts
The first step in gaining control of negative self-talk is by increasing awareness of what you tend to say to yourself in situations in which these thoughts typically occur. Try recording these thoughts in a logbook. Is your self-talk helpful or harmful?
2. Stop the negative
Once negative self-talk is identified, you need to learn to “park it” or stop it (which is easier said than done!). Saying “park it” or visualising a big, red stop sign are good cues to use to help halt negative thoughts.
3. Replace with positive
Imagine the mind is like a cup, if it is filled to the top with positive thoughts, there will be no room for negative self-talk. You need to identify positive self-talk in advance and replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.
4. Practice thought stopping
A final step is to practice, practice, practice. It is important to practice stopping and replacing negative self-talk. For a while you will need to be very conscious of your internal self-talk as the thought stopping technique will not occur automatically. With enough practice having positive thoughts will become second nature.