Stress Management Management Techniques Reduce Stress and Improve Your Life With Positive Self Talk Develop the Positive Self Talk Habit! By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD Twitter Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on May 24, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Medically reviewed by Rachel Goldman, PhD, FTOS Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Rachel Goldman, PhD FTOS, is a licensed psychologist, clinical assistant professor, speaker, wellness expert specializing in eating behaviors, stress management, and health behavior change. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Cultura / Duel / Riser / Getty Images You may not realize it, but your self-talk may be sabotaging your stress levels! Self-talk—the way your inner voice makes sense of the world around you and the way you communicate with your inner self—can greatly affect your stress levels in multiple ways. If your self-talk is generally negative, you may be perceiving events if your life as more stressful than they need to be and creating unnecessary anxiety and stress for yourself. You may be attributing negative motivations to people who are well-meaning, you may be perceiving yourself as less equipped to handle challenges you face, and you may be seeing only more negatives than positives in what you are facing in life, when there may be a much less stressful "bright side" you're not perceiving because of habitual negative self-talk. You may also succumb to rumination, a pattern of negative thinking that can consume your idle time and bring stress from the past into the present unnecessarily without leading to any resolution. Patterns of negative or positive self-talk often start in childhood. Usually, the self-talk habit is one that’s colored our thinking for years and can affect us in many ways, influencing the experience of stress in our lives. However, any time can be a good time to change it. Stopping Self-Talk Here are some ways you can stop yourself from using negative self-talk and use your mind to boost your productivity and self-esteem and relieve stress. If these techniques don't work for you, consider seeing a therapist who through cognitive behavioral therapy can help develop strategies to challenge negative thoughts and cognitive distortions. Notice Your Patterns The first step toward change is to become more aware of the problem. You probably don’t realize how often you say negative things in your head, or how much it affects your experience. The following strategies can help you become more conscious of your internal dialogue and its content. Journal Writing Whether you carry a journal around with you and jot down negative comments when you think them, write a general summary of your thoughts at the end of the day, or just start writing about your feelings on a certain topic and later go back to analyze it for content, journaling can be an effective tool for examining your inner process. Why Bullet Journals Are Effective Thought-Stopping As you notice yourself saying something negative in your mind, you can stop your thought mid-stream by saying to yourself “Stop." Saying this aloud will be more powerful. Plus, having to say it aloud will make you more aware of how many times you are stopping negative thoughts. How to Use Thought Stopping in Your Life Rubber-Band Snap Another therapeutic trick is to walk around with a rubber band around your wrist. As you notice negative self-talk, pull the band away from your skin and let it snap back. It’ll hurt a little, and serve as a slightly negative consequence that will both make you more aware of your thoughts and help to stop them! Or, if you don’t want to subject yourself to walking around with a rubber band on your wrist, you’ll be even more careful to limit the negative thoughts! Replace Negative Statements A good way to stop a bad habit is to replace it with something better. Once you’re aware of your internal dialogue, here are some ways to change it: Milder Wording Have you ever been to a hospital and noticed how the nurses talk about ‘discomfort’ instead of ‘pain’? This is generally done because ‘pain’ is a much more powerful word, and discussing your ‘pain’ level can actually make your experience of it more intense than if you’re discussing your ‘discomfort’ level. You can try this strategy in your daily life. In your self-talk, turning more powerful negative words to more neutral ones can actually help neutralize your experience. Instead of using words like ‘hate’ and ‘angry’ (as in, “I hate traffic! It makes me so angry!”), you can use words like ‘don’t like’ and ‘annoyed’ (“I don’t like traffic; it makes me annoyed,” sounds much milder, doesn’t it?) Negative to Neutral or Positive As you find yourself mentally complaining about something, rethink your assumptions. Are you assuming something is a negative event when it isn’t, necessarily? For example, having your plans canceled at the last minute can be seen as a negative, but what you do with your newly-freed schedule can be what you make of it. The next time you find yourself stressing about something or deciding you’re not up to a challenge, stop and rethink, and see if you can come up with a neutral or positive replacement. Self-Limiting Statements to Questions Self-limiting statements like “I can’t handle this!” or “This is impossible!” are particularly damaging because they increase your stress in a given situation and they stop you from searching for solutions. The next time you find yourself thinking something that limits the possibilities of a given situation, turn it into a question. Doesn’t “How can I handle this?” or “How is this possible?” sound more hopeful and open up your imagination to new possibilities? You can also help yourself develop more positive self-talk by bringing more positive energy into your life. Surround yourself with positivity so your mind remains more optimistic and positive. How to Use Journaling for Effective Stress Management Get Advice From The Verywell Mind Podcast Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast shares an effective way to help you curb negative thinking. Follow Now: Apple Podcasts / Spotify / Google Podcasts 5 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Positive Emotions and Your Health: Developing a Brighter Outlook. NIH News in Health. Tod D, Hardy J, Oliver E. Effects of self-talk: a systematic review. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 2011;33(5):666-87. doi:10.1123/jsep.33.5.666 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. National Institute of Mental Health. Rood L, Roelofs J, Bögels SM, Alloy LB. Dimensions of Negative Thinking and the Relations with Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents. Cognit Ther Res. 2010;34(4):333-342. doi:10.1007/s10608-009-9261-y Eagleson C, Hayes S, Mathews A, Perman G, Hirsch CR. The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Behav Res Ther. 2016;78:13-8. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.017 By Elizabeth Scott, PhD Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Stress Management Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.