Today, being Valentine’s Day, I think it’s important to talk about how we talk to ourselves and how that works with the amount of stress that we feel.

Mindset has a lot to do with how stressed we feel and how well we manage that stress. The easiest way to change our mindset is to improve our self-talk. Self-talk is our internal dialogue – in other words, how we talk to ourselves. Self-talk can be negative (You big dummy! Look what you did now! You’ll never get through this without being fired!) or positive (You’ve got this. You’re smart, talented, and know what you’re doing. It’s not that bad. Everything will be alright.) and most people use both kinds throughout the day.

We are constantly talking to ourselves. It’s a running stream in our heads of both positive and negative thoughts. Negative self-talk increases stress levels, while positive self-talk reduces them. Negative self-talk also makes it harder to deal with our external stressors. It affects how happy we are, how well we perform at work, how easy learning new things is, and many other aspects of our lives.

Start paying attention to the messages you are sending yourself with your self-talk. Are they positive or negative? If you find that you primarily use negative self-talk, you can change it to positive self-talk. Here are three ways to help you make the change and reduce your stress levels.

Start by Reducing the Negativity

The first step is to reduce but not eliminate the negative parts of your self-talk. The goal of this step is to make these negative statements to yourself milder. You do this by catching yourself saying something negative and then repeating it with a milder version.

For instance, if you catch yourself saying, “I hate my job!” stop and say something milder such as “I dislike my job.” Or, if you tend to say things like “This is impossible!” change it to “This is incredibly difficult.” Practice will naturally shift you away from the more negative thoughts to the milder ones.

Slowly Introduce Positive Self-Talk

Once you’ve gotten in the habit of replacing the most negative thoughts with gentler ones, start replacing those statements with positive ones. For example, “This is incredibly difficult” can become “This is hard, but I can do it!” and then “I’ve got this!”

Start Using Positive Affirmations

Our thinking patterns are habits, just like everything else we do all the time. One way to help stop negative self-talk is to introduce positive affirmations regularly. Pick out a few affirmations that you like and say them to yourself multiple times a day. This will help you build up the habit of positive self-talk.

These three steps, when taken together, will help you permanently reduce your negative self-talk and make it more positive. This will reduce your stress levels, make you healthier, and increase your quality of life.

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