How Self-Talk Affects Emotional Wellbeing


Some of the most important ways we can promote our mental health and emotional wellbeing may not be observable on the outside, yet will manifest in infinite ways. The ways we think, talk to ourselves and interpret events have far reaching effects.

Note the tone of how you speak to yourself. If your internal voice is condescending, critical, demanding, or judgmental, you are much less likely to succeed with goals such as New Year resolutions centered around diet, exercise or self-care. When your self-talk is riddled with "shoulds" instead of "want to," you might be setting yourself up for staying stuck.

Try a few simple switches in your self-talk and thinking to promote a more positive attitude, which will more likely predict success.

Instead of saying you "should" do something, try saying "I want to....". If the new sentence fits, follow through and focus on what you WANT. If the new sentence doesn't feel true, let it go.

Be honest with the ways you put yourself down. It happens in little ways, like saying, "that was stupid," or calling yourself a name. If you truly feel you have made a mistake, own it. Then find the lesson within the mistake. Instead of focusing on negative labels, when the issue arises, repeat to yourself the lesson you learned. For example, "Next time I'm in that situation, I will remember to ________." Stop calling yourself names, even if you are doing so in jest.

Watch your use of absolute terms. When you use words like always, never, forever ("I'll never find someone," "I'll always mess this up"), we shoot down hope and optimism. Remember – not much in this world is permanent. Hardship will not always be there, but the thoughts about it linger. Focus on what is going right and acknowledge the ebbs and flows of life.

Balance personal responsibility with outside forces. You cannot control everything, you are not at fault for everything. There are infinite forces that impact our lives. Take responsibility when appropriate, acknowledge that sometimes bad things just happen.

If you are saying something to yourself that you wouldn't say to your best friend or your child, stop saying it. We talk to ourselves much more harshly than we'd talk to a loved one. Give yourself that kindness you so willingly give to others.

Challenge your "if-then" statements. We all have them. "If I lose ten pounds, then I'll feel better." "If I had a boyfriend, I would not feel lonely." When we make these statements, we are predicating our happiness on the ideas that we are not good enough as we are right now. Simply set the goal, identify the steps to the goal, and just do it if it means enough to you.

Identify the smaller parts to a bigger goal. Goals to "be happy," "be healthy," and "lose weight" fall flat without identifiable objectives. Talk to yourself about the steps to the goal and pump yourself up. Act in service of your goal daily and tell yourself why you are doing what you are doing and congratulate yourself on little and big victories.

Get out there and act and think in service of yourself, your goals and your passions!


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Opinions expressed on the site and in the blog are based on Dr. Ranttila's years of education and experience. These are general statements and should not be used in place of individualized assessment and treatment.