“Like food is to the body, self-talk is to the mind.”
— Maddy Malhotra, coach, author, speaker
Sometimes when I hear the words “self-talk” I picture the image of that little angel in white hovering over one shoulder whispering positive things in your ear with a smile, and the little devil in red on the other side telling you the opposite with a sinister laugh. It is said that the average person has more than 30,000 thoughts a day, so how many of these thoughts are from the positive angel and how many are from the little devil?
As the quote states, self-talk is like food for our brain. Like the food that goes into your body, what you think influences how you feel and how you behave. Simply put, what you put in is what you get out. This is the mind-body connection at work.
“Sometimes you want to talk to yourself instead of listening.”
— Jon Gordon, author, speaker
As the Times Colonist Health Challenge continues for our participants and those at home who have committed to improving their fitness, it is important to gain awareness around your self-talk and the impact that it plays on how you feel and what you choose to do or not do. Once you become aware of your patterns of thinking, you can use this information to practise replacing negative thoughts with positive or productive thinking.
One way to do this is to keep a journal or chart of your workouts including the exercises and activities you are doing. Create a column where you can identify some examples of what you were thinking at certain times of the day and how you felt as a result.
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Practise this and you will begin to see patterns in your thinking and then decide where you want to make changes. Ask yourself which thoughts will help you reach your goals and which ones won’t. For those that are weighing you down, find an alternative. Add another column to your chart and identify what you would rather be thinking. What would be a more balanced thought?
Imagine how you will feel after thinking in a more encouraging way rather than just getting stuck in the negative thought pattern. Even if you hold on for just a bit longer, you did it and you can do it again. If you have trouble finding alternative thoughts, ask yourself how you would respond to a friend if they were asking for your help.
Something else to look for are the words you are using when you are thinking negative thoughts. One of the most harmful words is “should.”
Psychologist Clayton Barbeau dubbed the term “shoulding yourself.” Should is a word that is interpreted as “you didn’t.” That message can leave us feeling unempowered, guilty and shamed. When you hear other people say it, often their body language shows tension. When it comes to the mental game, the small things matter.
Catch yourself in “should mode” and reframe your thoughts using more accepting and motivating words such as want, would, could and will. It will make a big difference in how you feel.
Christie Gialloreto is a private practice mental training consultant with the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. Contact her at email@example.com.