Health | Real Life

How Kind Words Can Change Your Mindset

be kind be happy be brave book
via Dee @ Copper and Wild on Unsplash

Have you ever spoken to yourself more harshly than you would ever speak to your friends? Have you ever told yourself that you make too many mistakes, that you are terrible at doing something, or that you are not good enough? We engage in self-talk constantly. When our talk is negative it can limit our motivation and impact the way we interact with others. When our self-talk is more positive, we are better able to manage stress and more likely to pursue opportunities. Learning to choose a more positive tone—so that we treat ourselves more like we would treat a close friend—is a way to practise self-kindness.

We all have inner critics that can help us to identify our shortcomings and motivate us to improve. At times, self-criticism can turn into something more intense that is not helpful and may even be damaging. Most people experience negative self-talk at some point in their lives. It can creep up when significant events occur, such as receiving poor results on an important exam, missing out on a desired promotion, or facing the end of a relationship. At the same time, it can happen in everyday situations, such as when we compare ourselves to others, focus on our imperfections, or dwell on our mistakes. Even missing a workout in a newly established fitness routine can lead to negative self-talk. In such moments, we may find ourselves saying things like, “I’m not good enough. I’m too tall…too short…too round…not round enough. I don’t deserve that. I’ll never reach my goals,” all of which does far greater harm than good.

Negative self-talk can become a habit that weighs down our mood and limits how we view our capabilities and accomplishments, which makes us less likely to seize beneficial opportunities or even notice those opportunities at all. We feel less motivated, capable, and happy, and we may treat those around us negatively.  When negative self-talk takes hold over time, we can become our own worst enemy and put ourselves down when what we really need is compassion and encouragement. Thankfully, we can learn how to stop bullying ourselves by transforming our negative talk into something more positive.

Positive self-talk is compassionate, understanding, and encouraging. People who regularly practise positive self-talk can strengthen their abilities to cope with challenging situations, better manage stress, and become more optimistic. With a more constructive perspective, we are more likely to notice opportunities and act on them, and we are better able to have a balanced view of our own capabilities. When we speak kindly to ourselves, we recognize that everyone makes mistakes, not just us. We recognize that we are not perfect, but we have the power to influence our perspective—for instance, skipping a workout from time to time is not the demise of our fitness goals but a routine part of life.

Changing our self-talk from negative to positive can take practise. Just like choosing more nutritious foods or adopting a more active lifestyle, speaking kindly to yourself may require some commitment to form a healthier habit. As a first step, be mindful of what you are saying to yourself and learn to recognize when you are engaging in negative self-talk. When you find your thoughts becoming particularly critical, ask yourself whether the criticism is truly deserved and how it benefits you. Next, try to turn what you are saying into something more positive and kinder by imagining yourself giving encouragement to a close friend who is feeling down. There may be a particular time or situation in which you feel more prone to negative self-talk.  Once you recognize this, you can prepare for such moments and remind yourself to be positive.

be kind sign

Soon, thoughts like, “I’m terrible at this,” can become, “I can improve, and I need to practise more.”

“I’m not good enough,” turns into, “I am enough, and I have the power to make changes in my life.”

“I always mess things up,” transforms into, “Everyone makes mistakes. I am happy I tried.”

Use words that mean something to you—after all, you are the only person who will hear them. Some people find that positive affirmations, a meaningful quotation, or a piece of music can help them turn negative self-talk into something positive. Overall, notice what you are saying to yourself; when you recognize negativity, take time to speak to yourself like a friend and transform your perspective into something more positive.

We must remember to choose our words carefully and speak kindly to ourselves. Our words affect our thoughts. Our thoughts affect how we feel, how we act, and what we bring to the world. Kindness begins with how you speak to yourself.

hero of your own life mug with flower

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