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Self-Talk: What Is It?

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

November 29, 2023

Table of Contents

Self-talk is a mental health term that describes an inner voice that provides a running interior monologue as you go about your day. This internal monologue combines your conscious thoughts and your unconscious beliefs, helping your brain to process and interpret your everyday experiences.

You may find your self-talk is supportive and positive, or it could take on self-defeating and negative tones. Positive self-talk can boost your confidence and calm you, delivering many benefits we will highlight today.

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What is self-talking in more detail, then?

What is Self-Talk?

Self-talk is an internal narrative concerning yourself.

Your inner voice may guide you as you perform tasks, or it may make observations about your surroundings and the situation at hand.

While most people have an ongoing interior dialogue, not everyone is aware of the influence self-talk can have on your mood, your wellbeing, and the world around you.

Self-talk can be both positive and encouraging or negative and distressing.

Your personality will have a significant influence on the way you talk to yourself. In broad terms, optimists will be more prone to engaging in positive, hopeful self-talk, while pessimists will typically conduct more negative internal dialogues.

Research shows that optimists are healthier and tend to live longer than pessimists. While you might not easily change your personality, you can reframe your outlook on life and reshape the way you talk to yourself. Today’s guide will give you some actionable tips for improving the nature of your self-talk.

Types of Self-Talk

The pioneering neurologist Sigmund Freud first created the concept of self-talk. He posited that everyone has levels of thought that are both conscious and unconscious. Freud also asserted that there are unconscious cognitive processes that can influence your behavior in ways you do not realize.

There are two main types of self-talk – positive and negative.

What Is Positive Self-Talk?

The definition of positive self-talk is an internal dialogue that makes you feel good about yourself.

Research indicates that positive self-talk can be important for a number of reasons and in a variety of applications. Whether you want to mediate the symptoms of anxiety or depression or you want to perform better in the workplace or on the sports field, positive self-talk can help by:

  • Boosting confidence and resilience
  • Reducing stress
  • Developing better interpersonal relationships

Boosting confidence and resilience

If you approach life with positive internal dialogue, this is liable to boost your self-confidence and make you feel better overall.

This study shows that individuals who score highly for positive self-esteem and optimism are more likely to:

  • Score good grades at school.
  • Recover rapidly from surgery.
  • Achieve their life goals.

By engaging in ongoing positive self-talk, you should become increasingly confident that you will achieve your goals, assuming they are both reasonable and actionable. The more you foster the internal voice telling you that the things you want are all achievable, the more you will find workarounds when confronted with obstacles. This applies both in a recovery setting and in day-to-day life.

An image of a person partaking in positive self-talk on a mountain

Reducing stress

A significant body of research suggests that those inclined toward optimism are more likely to:

Engage in active coping strategies when confronted by stressors.

Utilize positive self-talk.

Using healthy coping strategies and positive self-talk can be a powerful defense strategy against stressful situations, whether in your recovery from addiction or more generally.

By reframing the way in which you view stressful situations, you will be more likely to attack those scenarios with an “I can do it” mentality rather than imagining the task will be too tough to accomplish. You may also find that adopting this approach helps you to open up fresh approaches to problem-solving and thinking.

Developing better interpersonal relationships

If you spend time around those who are positive, optimistic, and self-assured, you’ll probably have noticed that those people exude self-confidence and appear perfectly content with who they are. This 2012 study finds that couples adopting an optimistic approach reported increased levels of cooperation and more positive outcomes when confronted with problems.

If you’re unsure how to get started implementing more positive self-talk, use these ten starting points for inspiration and personalize them according to your goals:

  1. I will do the best I can to solve this problem.
  2. I can change my mind at any time.
  3. I have no control over what others say, think, or do. I am only in control of myself.
  4. I can learn from this mistake and use it as an opportunity for personal growth.
  5. This is a great chance to try something new and to get out of my comfort zone.
  6. Even though I failed, I am proud of myself for attempting this.
  7. I learned lots from this experience even though the outcome was unsuccessful.
  8. I am strong and capable enough to get through this.
  9. Although I have some way to go, I am proud of my achievements so far.
  10. Tomorrow represents the opportunity to implement the lessons I learned today.

What Is Negative Self-Talk?

There are four main categories of negative self-talk:

  1. Polarizing: Viewing things as extremes, as good or bad with no gray area.
  2. Catastrophizing: Always expecting the worst outcome.
  3. Magnifying: Focusing only on the negative in any situation while rejecting anything positive.
  4. Personalizing: Blaming yourself if things go wrong.

Those diagnosed with an anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder often report negative and destructive self-talk. For those with mental health disorders, internal dialogues can become critical and relentless. This can trigger futile but aggravating spells of rumination.

Psychotherapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) are one of the most effective methods if you want to discover How to stop negative self-talk. A therapist will help you to reframe the way you think and increase your awareness of the close interrelationship between your thoughts and your behaviors. The cognitive behavioral therapist will also help you to create healthy coping mechanisms to empower you in your recovery and minimize the chance of relapse.

Positive self-talk, then, can improve your life in many areas. Negative self-talk, by contrast, can lead to mental health issues, decreased motivation, and an inability to achieve goals due to destructive or self-limiting beliefs.

We can help you overcome toxic self-talk here at our Orange County treatment facility.

Getting Help from Renaissance Recovery

Negative self-talk can be especially damaging at all stages of the recovery journey. Here at Renaissance, you can engage with a variety of evidence-based treatments for the following conditions:

  • Alcohol use disorders (alcoholism)
  • Substance use disorders (drug addiction)
  • Mental health disorders
  • Dual diagnosis (addiction with co-occurring mental health disorder)

Behavioral interventions like individual counseling, group counseling, and psychotherapy like CBT or DBT delivered by credentialed experts will help you eliminate negative self-talking as you kickstart your recovery here at our Orange County rehab center.

Your treatment team may also administer MAT (medication-assisted treatment) for a variety of conditions, including alcohol use disorder and opioid use disorder. This can be effective both during detox and throughout ongoing recovery. If you require a supervised medical detox, we can connect you with suitable treatment facilities near you.

We specialize in the outpatient treatment of addictions and mental health conditions, allowing you a more affordable and less restrictive approach than residential rehab. Studies prove that most mild or moderate addictions respond just as well to intensive outpatient treatment as inpatient treatment. We offer both IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) and PHPs (partial hospitalization programs). Both programs offer more support and structure than traditional outpatient programs.

Get immediate assistance and treatment for any addiction or mental health issues here at our luxury rehab by calling 866.330.9449.

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At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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