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By Dr Stan Steindl, Clinical Psychologist
Negative self-talk- it’s that niggling little voice inside our head that for whatever reason is often skewed towards the negative. Perhaps it’s a hard-wired human response to protect oneself from danger, assuming the worst to prepare and protect?
The fact of the matter is, negative self-talk is not as necessary for survival in the modern-day world as it was during caveman times, and studies reveal that negative self-talk is associated with higher stress levels and depression.
But learning how to shut down the Negative Nelly within, can be difficult; herein lie a few ways you can re-wire the circuit and teach yourself to think more positively.
Brené Brown, PhD, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of The Gifts Of Imperfection, has develop an effective technique to revert negative self-talk.
Give your negative alter ego a name, it could be endearing, funny or down right rude, just name it and put it back in its box. Every time a negative thought pops into your head, think of a physical box, put her in it, close the lid and think, “Right here comes Negative Nelly again”.
Clinical Psychologist, Dr Stan Steindl says, “Learning to acknowledge when the negative self-talk is happening is half the challenge. When it is happening, it may seem to be very factual but with time you may notice a pattern with this inner dialogue and realise it’s more of a habit than a reality”.
Challenging the negative self-talk will take some practice but once you are aware of the physical and emotional cues, you can stop, breathe and reflect on what you are thinking. Here are a few thoughts that may help to challenge the negative thought.
1. What evidence is there for this thought? ⇒ Is there any alternative way of looking at this? ⇒ Is there any alternative explanation?
2. How would someone else think about the same situation?
3. Are my judgments based on how I felt rather than what I did?
4. Am I setting myself unrealistic or unobtainable standards?
5. Am I forgetting relevant facts or over focusing on irrelevant facts?
6. What would I tell my best friend if he/she said the same thing?
If you are struggling with negative self-talk or depressed mood, talking to a mental health professional can help you move forward and start living the way you want to live. You can find more information on challenging thoughts at