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The Power of Self-Talk: How Your Words Shape Your Mindset


A brain wearing a crown

In our everyday lives, we often overlook one of the most significant influencers on our mindset. Surprisingly, it’s not social media; it’s actually the things we say to ourselves. This internal dialogue, which I call "inner yammering," profoundly impacts our mindset, self-perception, mental health, self-esteem, and overall outlook on life.


But before we dive into tips for transforming that negative self-talk, I’d like to geek out with you for a moment and share some fascinating insights from a study done by Dr. Masaru Emoto, as well as share some compelling neuroscience factoids. Because understanding the science behind self-talk can help us to feel less alone with our negative thoughts and a lot more empowered.


So, if you’re ready to geek out with me, let’s dive into how our self-talk impacts our mindsets.


The Impact of Self-Talk on Your Mindset


We all do it. We all say things to ourselves about ourselves - from the good to the bad and ugly. It’s natural and it’s often connected to something called Negative Bias. What’s important to note here is that the “flavor” of your inner chit-chat can significantly influence your emotions, behaviors, and of course, stress levels.

To explain further…


Positive self-talk can:


- Boost Confidence: Affirming and encouraging statements can enhance your self-esteem and confidence because they’re empowering.

- Improve Performance: Positive mindset reinforcement can motivate you to perform better in various aspects of life, from work to personal goals. When you’re motivated and feeling good, you’re more apt to take steps towards achieving your goals.

- Reduce Stress: Encouraging thoughts can help mitigate stress and promote a sense of calm and control because they help to release feel-good chemicals into the bloodstream.

 

On the other hand, negative self-talk can:


- Lower Self-Esteem: Critical and harsh words can diminish your self-worth, tainting what you see, how you feel, and what you believe.

- Hinder Performance: Doubting your abilities can lead to decreased motivation and poor or no performance. And actually, this is your brain’s way of protecting you from what it perceives to be a danger (based on past experiences).

- Increase Stress: Negative thoughts can escalate stress and anxiety, impacting your overall well-being, releasing stress hormones into the bloodstream.

 

The Neuroscience of Self-Talk


Our brains are incredibly adaptable, capable of rewiring themselves in response to different stimuli, such as our experiences—a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.

And here’s how self-talk influences the brain and helps to create new neural pathways, as well as prune the old ones:


1. Cognitive Restructuring: Positive self-talk can lead to cognitive restructuring, which is the process of changing negative thinking patterns into positive ones. This can help in managing stress and anxiety.[1]. Not to mention, when we create a new pattern of thinking and consistently use that new pattern, we’re creating a new neural pathway. Just like a muscle, the more we use that new neural pathway the stronger it gets, until we eventually replace the old one with the new one.


2. Activation of the Prefrontal Cortex: Positive self-talk activates the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for planning, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. This activation helps in enhancing focus and problem-solving skills[2].


3. Reduction of the Amygdala Response: Negative self-talk can trigger the amygdala, which is part of the emotional center of the brain, leading to heightened stress and anxiety. Positive self-talk helps to calm the amygdala, reducing stress responses[3].


4. Release of Neurotransmitters: Positive thoughts can stimulate the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are associated with feelings of happiness and well-being[4]. Those “feel good” chemicals also reduce our levels of stress and anxiety.

 

 Dr. Emoto’s Study of Words on Water


Dr. Emoto, a Japanese researcher, conducted experiments where he exposed water samples to different words, music, and environments. The water was then frozen, and the resulting crystals were examined under a microscope.


His findings were mind-blowing! He found that:


- Water exposed to positive words like “love” and “gratitude” formed beautiful, symmetrical crystals. And,

- Water exposed to negative words like “hate” and “fear” formed distorted, chaotic crystals.


Dr. Emoto’s study suggests that words carry energy that can influence the physical world. If words can affect water in such a profound way, imagine their impact on the human body (and mind), which is approximately 60% water [5].


Recognizing and Changing Negative Self-Talk


If you’ve been connected to my work for a little bit, you’ll no doubt have learned that I’ve been on a quest since the time I was 10 (that’s over 4 decades). A quest to get the negative narratives to stop. What I’ve learned over all that time are some things that I want to pass along to you.


1.       The negative thoughts are just data trying to inform us of something. If we can get curious and play a bit of detective, we can find out what we’re meant to glean from those thoughts.


2.     We’re never going to be without that negative yammering or the inner critic that creates all the noise. And honestly, that’s a good thing. Again, it all comes back to the data and what we’re meant to learn from it – which has been super beneficial to me over the years.


3.     And while we may never be rid of the negative narratives in our head, we can mitigate their negative impact but first, we have to be aware of what we’re saying to ourselves.

 

So, what all that being said, I’d like to share just a few tips to help you recognize and shift your internal dialogue:


1. Check-in With How You Feel: This is super important when it comes to creating awareness, as what we feel serves as intel. There was a point in time when I actually scheduled check-ins in my calendar at 9am, Noon, and bedtime. When that calendar reminder “pinged,” I’d pause what I was doing and ask the following questions:


How do I feel right now?

What am I doing or thinking that’s creating that feeling?


For example, if I was feeling anxious and I realized that I was stressing over something that had yet to happen, that was my cue to take a few deep breaths or focus on my surroundings.


Now, checking in has become a habit so I don’t need reminding.


2. Challenge Negative Thoughts: When you catch yourself thinking negatively it often helps to ask questions like:


What’s true?

What evidence do I have that contradicts what I’m thinking right now? (For example, internal resources, experiences, and external resources.)


3. Reframe Your Language:  Since what we say to ourselves is just as important as the food we eat; it helps to change negative statements into more supportive ones. For example, changing “I can’t do this” to “I’m in the process of figuring this out.” “I am angry” to “I’m feeling angry.”


4. Practice Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to reinforce empowering beliefs. Phrases like “I am capable” and “I am worthy” can build a positive mindset. But here’s something super important, these affirmations have to be relevant to you and resonate with you in order to be effective.


5. Surround Yourself with Positivity: Engage with positive influences, whether it’s people, books, or environments that uplift you. And steer clear of the things that zap your energy or have negative undertones.


6. Mindfulness and Meditation: These practices can help you become more aware of your thoughts and create a calmer, more centered mindset. I love apps like Breathwrk and Insight Timer.

 

 The Frequency of Self-Talk


And last, but not least I want to close with this…According to the National Science Foundation, a person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day, and approximately 80% of those thoughts are negative. Moreover, 95% of these thoughts are repetitive from the day before[6]. This statistic underscores the critical importance of being mindful of our self-talk. It also underscores just how common and prevalent negative thoughts are.


Wrapping Up

 

The words we speak to ourselves are powerful tools that shape our mindset and reality. By fostering positive self-talk, we can enhance our confidence, performance, and well-being. Dr. Emoto’s study on the impact of words on water further demonstrates the profound influence of language. Neuroscience shows us that positive self-talk can rewire our brains, improving mental health and overall quality of life.


I invite you starting today, to pay attention to your self-talk and experiment with one of the tips to support and empower you. Remember, the most important conversation you have each day is the one you have with yourself. Make it count!


And as always, I’m here and I’m listening.

 

References

 

[1]: National Center for Biotechnology Information. (n.d.). Cognitive restructuring: An overview. Retrieved from [NCBI](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2956753/).

[2]: Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Understanding the stress response. Retrieved from [Harvard Health](https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response).

[3]: National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d.). The amygdala's role in anxiety. Retrieved from [NIMH](https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml).

[4]: National Institutes of Health. (n.d.). Neurotransmitters and their impact on mental health. Retrieved from [NIH](https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-unravels-role-serotonin-brain-neurotransmitter).

[5]: Emoto, M. (2004). The Hidden Messages in Water. Atria Books.

[6]: National Science Foundation. (2005). National Science Foundation’s report on human thought patterns. Retrieved from [NSF](https://www.nsf.gov).

 

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