Have you noticed your self talk? Is it predominantly positive or negative? For most people it’s negative. Over 80% of our thoughts are negative, according to one study.
We beat ourselves up constantly over little things that don’t matter. What’s more, we do it over and over. So one possibly bad event, turns into multiple bad events simply because we repeat it. According to this article, your subconscious can’t tell the difference between a real or imagined event.
So we can literally make shit up and the mind and body will react as if it is real. Seriously, the truth is, you can make this shit up!
I often have conversations in my head about real and imagined scenarios. We all do this, don’t blink at me as if I’ve lost my mind. Off we go on our little, pointless tangents, often over inflating the situation and you can feel your heart rate increase.
We feel ourselves getting angry, anxious or even depressed. It’s like we are in a hole and the world is closing in on us. Hope is futile and we look for a doughnut shop, a couch and a soppy movie! Or a beer!
It doesn’t have to be this way.
What to do
When I was listening to Sam Harris’s meditation app Waking Up, Sam would lead me through a meditation and the challenge, or suggestion at the end, was to notice the “moments” between commitments. Say between meetings, or conversations, or when moving from one room to another, or heading out to lunch or coming back from lunch. Simple, everyday moments we all have.
Sam would instruct me to take a moment and determine to respond, rather than react. To take a breath and notice the breath. To be mindful rather than be on autopilot and rush to the next thing!
To be honest, it took me a while. I’d get through my day and and realise I had missed all the opportunities to “notice the moment”. You can imagine what that self talk was like!
But then, one day, I did notice. I literally caught myself saying, “I am leaving this meeting and I’m heading out to get something to eat.” Bingo! I had slowed down enough, or become aware enough, to notice a moment.
Noticing moments allows you space to take conscious action.
In terms of working on your self talk, take notice of your internal conversations. Determine the difference between a real conversation you are working through versus a rant that will never see the light of day.
When the rant is in full swing, notice it, and shut it down.
I do this all the time now and it really helps my mood and reduces my stress or anxiety.
I will literally notice the conversation in my head and call out the exaggerations. I’ll say to myself, “That didn’t happen, drop it!” and I stop the conversation in my head. I then put on the “half smile” I talked about here to move away from the dark clouds in my head to the sunshine.
We can’t always control what happens to us and we can all get caught out by impulsive self talk. But if we start to notice these moments, we can begin to respond and not react.
Sometimes just reading something like this is enough to trigger the ability to stop and notice.
Other times we need to be more conscious about this.
I suggest writing something down to read each morning. Or, as I have also done, I write what I want to be conscious of at the top of the page in my notebooks where I write my notes of meetings during the day. This way it’s always in front of me.
On days I forget, I simply remind myself I get another chance tomorrow!