If you’re like many people, you have an inner voice that isn’t exactly kind. All day long, this voice speaks to you, criticizing and condemning you — is it any wonder you feel bad about yourself? Passively listening to this voice is a recipe for trouble. It fuels your unhappiness. Remember, you are not powerless; you can do something about it! Below, consider specific strategies that work to change the negative self-talk and give yourself compassion.
- Call out the inner critic. The mean voice in your head thrives on your passivity. So start doing something to fight back: Confront the ugly thoughts. Write them down. Journal. By naming the accusations assaulting your mind, you will suddenly have power to respond to them.
- Apply the golden rule — to yourself. You know what you were taught as a child, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Why not apply it to yourself too? When your own mind tries to bully you, ask yourself if what you’re hearing is something you’d say it to a friend. Or, better yet, would you say it to a child? Everyone was once a child, and the childhood you is still in there. Think about that when you hear an attacking thought and respond the way you would to someone you love.
- Practice mindfulness. It’s hard to change your self-talk when you’re too rushed to pay attention to it. Slowing down with mindfulness can be a wonderful gift to yourself. You could try deep breathing, yoga, meditation, acknowledging the sensations in your body or something else — anything that helps you practice checking in with yourself and being curious about emotions.
- Try positive affirmations. Simple phrases can be great for creating a new feedback loop in your brain. When you’re tempted to beat yourself up about making a mistake, you could practice “everyone makes mistakes” or “I am brave enough to take risks.” As you take initiative in your thought life, notice how it changes the way you feel.
- Cultivate enjoyable hobbies. There are so many stress relievers that can be good for your psyche. Going for a walk, listening to music, dancing, practicing a craft and/or getting together with someone you love can all be mood-boosters and ways to lift your spirits. As you lose yourself in a fun activity, you may find the negative voice gets harder to hear.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Daily logging things for which you are thankful is another great way to experience more joy and less negativity. Even small pleasures such as good food, a text from a friend, getting outside or having a hot shower are worth noticing and celebrating. They can help flip the switch from downcast to upbeat.
- Be kind to someone else. Sometimes, helping someone else can actually help yourself. How? When you smile at a stranger, give someone your place in line, call a friend or help someone in need, you get your focus off the negative cycle in your head. Plus, you get to experience the power of brightening someone’s day — always a mood booster.
- Get help. Along with all the ideas above, one of the best kindnesses you can give yourself is to seek help from professional mental health services. Skilled counselors and therapists can make an enormous difference in the way you think and feel. Trained to listen, they can model kindness to you as you learn to give it for yourself, too. When you want to invest in yourself, this is a worthwhile step to take.
Everyone deserves compassion — and that includes you. Move towards a kinder, more loving way of talking to yourself by incorporating the habits above.