When I started getting anxiety, in my teens, one of the first things I did was to learn how to use self talk for anxiety relief.
I tried speaking nicely to myself, giving myself compliments, you know, saying to myself that I was a strong person and things like that. But it was ineffective. And for a long time I decided that positive self talk doesn’t work for me.
That was until I read a great deal about the science of self talk. I learned tons about how to use self talk correctly, why our internal dialogue is so important, and more.
Today, I’m a meditation teacher, and one of the many tips that I give to my clients, other than meditating of course, is to monitor their self talk and change it so it is healthier.
I’m going to show you how to do the same thing in this guide. First I’ll discuss what self talk is, then we will look at why it works, and finally I will share my best tips for using self talk for anxiety relief.
Self Talk For Anxiety Relief – Intro
What is “Positive Self Talk”
In a nutshell, self talk simply means the way we speak to ourselves in our thoughts. This internal dialogue can be either positive or negative, and can have a big impact on our lives.
When we talk about “positive self talk” we really mean that we speak to ourselves in healthy ways. You know, ways that are supportive and compassionate.
Sadly, many people are prone to negative self talk [see these negative self talk examples to check if you’re guilty of this]. We dwell on our failures, have negativity bias, and spend way more time putting ourselves down rather than lifting ourselves up. Indeed, some people have such a harsh inner critic that it causes anxiety and depression according to Lisa Firestone Ph.D, Director of Research and Education at The Glendon Association.
Thankfully, you can silence your inner critic and you can make your self talk positive. We will discuss how to change a negative inner voice below.
How To Use Positive Self Talk For Anxiety Relief
I’m going to share tons of great tips below, but first, here is the basic three step process for changing your self talk.
1: Calm your mind so you can hear your internal dialogue
The hardest thing about changing self talk is that a lot of talk talk is unconscious. Therefore, you’re not aware of it. And you can’t control something that you’re not even aware of.
We need to change that so you are aware of your internal dialogue. The best way to do this is to clear your mind by mediating. Oh, and by the way, if you subscribe to my free newsletter you will get my pdf guide Clearing Your Mind With Meditation. That’s pretty darned helpful.
2: Become aware of your self talk habits
Self talk usually works in habits. Maybe you’re habitually positive about one aspect of your life but habitually negative about another. For instance, maybe you’re always confident about work but negative about relationships, and your self talk reflects that. Therefore, you want to look for any negative self talk habits. Once you are aware of these negative habits you can take steps to change them.
3: Start thinking positively
You can either change your self talk on the spot or practise positive self talk later. Either way, work on using self talk that is relaxing, realistically positive (more on this later), and self-compassionate (be kind to yourself). And also try to incorporate other positive thinking techniques.
Tips on using positive self talk for anxiety relief
1:Describe negative emotions to yourself in second or third person
When you experience negative emotions like anxiety, try describing the way you are feeling to yourself. This will make negative emotions more manageable. When we describe emotions we step outside of the emotion and view it from a more objective point of view. This makes us less reactive to negative emotions.
To make this even better, speak in second or third person.
Research suggests that self talk is more calming when we speak to ourselves in the second or third person.
According to Jason Moser, an associate professor in the department of psychology neuroscience program at Michigan State University, speaking to yourself in third person, “switches you to a different mode of experiencing negative emotions [like anxiety]… It’s like you’re viewing it from an outsider perspective.”
2: Use calming words
Calming words can have a profound effect on us. I’ve learned this through my years of practise as a private meditation teacher. Whenever I use calming words in meditations, I can literally see my clients becoming more relaxed.
Calming words include any synonym of “calm” (e.g. “peaceful”, “tranquil”, “serene”) as well as words like “gentle”, “soft”, and “slow”. If the word feels relaxing to you, you can use it in your self talk.
3: Stop being so damned fatalistic
People with anxiety often have overdramatic, fatalistic self talk. A small problem isn’t just a minor issue, it’s “the end of the world”. A slight setback isn’t just a “hiccup”, it’s “game over”.
Stop being so damned dramatic. Make your negative thoughts more realistic. Yes, you can say that something is less than perfect, but don’t act like it’s the worst thing ever (unless it literally is). Put your negative thoughts in perspective.
4: “Go-to” self talk for anxiety relief
Self talk is best when it is natural, when you can talk to yourself like it’s a regular conversation and you’re simply focusing on the positive. However, it can also be helpful to have some go-to statements. Use the following positive self talk examples for anxiety relief:
- “I can get through this”
- “Everything is fine”
- “I’ve gotten through worse things before”
- “I will overcome this”
- “I am calm and confident”
5: Use this self talk for panic attacks
Here are some great affirmations and self talk phrases for when you’re having a panic attack:
- “This too will pass”
- “I am not controlled by my anxiety”
- “With each breath I am feeling calmer”
- Describe how you’re feeling. Simply describe the symptoms you’re feeling. This is a basic mindfulness exercise used in cognitive behavioral therapy.
6: Use a thought journal
Sometimes it can be difficult to notice your thoughts. A thought journal can help. At the end of the day, write down your thoughts. Don’t filter yourself. Just chuck all your thoughts down on paper. And then leave it. The next day, read your thought journal slowly. Now correct your negative thoughts so they are realistic and leaning slightly towards the positive.
7: Reduce the extremity of your language
If you’re feeling negative, your self talk will be negative, and sometimes brutally so. The more negative you feel, the more extreme your self talk language will be. For instance, maybe you’re angry at yourself because you didn’t hit your monthly targets at work. You think to yourself, “I f***ing hate myself because I missed my target by a mile”. Simply make the language less extreme. “I’m irritated with myself because I missed target by a little bit this month”.
8: “Does this statement accurately describe my current situation and how I feel”?
If all else fails, simply ask yourself if your self talk is realistically describing the situation, or whether it is overly self critical or overdramatic. If you are being over the top, simply change your self talk so it realistically describes the situation.
9: Book a lesson with me and together we will change your self talk and end your anxiety.
Risks of changing self talk
There aren’t many side effects of using self talk for anxiety relief. In fact, the only real issue occurs when your self talk is unrealistic. For instance, when you tell yourself that you’re going to make a million bucks this month. This causes unrealistic expectations.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison