“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results.”
– Willie Nelson
Is your glass half empty or half full?
The conversations we have with ourselves (called our self talk) play a very important role in how we feel, act, and perform. The words you tell yourself can directly affect your confidence, energy, satisfaction, and success. We all have two voices in our head - a negative one, and a more positive one. One is useful, and the other, not so much!
Many of us tend to think more negatively when we encounter setbacks, mistakes, and challenges. The good news is that we can fix this! Now I am not saying that your negative talk will magically disappear, but you can work on changing it to being more positive.
7 Tricks to Optimism
1. Take a second to think about it
Like any type of behaviour change, the first step is always self-awareness. It will be tough to change the way you think if you are not aware of how you talk to yourself in the first place. You need to realize the kind of things that go through your head on a daily basis. At the end of the day, or after a performance, grab a piece of paper, or the notepad in your phone, and write about your performance that day, what you thought about yourself, and how you handled difficult situations. Do this for a few days and you will be able to notice right away whether you see your glass as half empty or half full.
2. “I can do this!”
So what exactly is positive self talk? Using statements that are encouraging and uplifting such as, “I’ll give it my best shot” and “I can do this!’ are examples of how you should be talking to yourself when you face a challenge. Start to realize what kind of positive self talk statements you tell yourself when you are performing, or when things go your way. Write them down on that same piece of paper or that notepad. We tend to always say the same things whether something goes wrong or not. Once you know your go-to words, it will be easier for you to make “the switch” later on. And if you cannot think of any positive statements that you’ve said to yourself in the past - you should just give up now. Just kidding! Think about what positive statements you would like to start beginning to say/think and write them down. Use this list to boost your confidence and motivation when the going gets tough!
3. The switch
When trying to develop positive self talk, cues can be a great helper to nip those negative thoughts in the bud. Before launching into that downward spiral, you can use a cue to prevent the dangers of negative thoughts. When you notice yourself saying things like, “I suck at this”, or if you begin to dwell on past failures, use a word or image to help you stay focused and in a more positive state of mind. Telling yourself, “Stop!” can help you clear your mind and reset. If that doesn’t work for you, try out a physical cue such as a shake of your head, or perhaps snapping your fingers. Once you’ve established your cue, then you can do the switch. Replace your negative self talk by positive self talk.
A helpful exercise you can try out is to list the things you are good at. We tend to focus on our weaknesses, but it is very important that we know our strengths as well. To develop your positive self talk you need to know how to talk positively about yourself - brag a little bit! What are you good at? Why do your friends like you? What are you thankful for? What good things would your parents and teachers say about you? Why is it important for you to get up every morning? Think about this and before you know it, you will see a change in your confidence and the overall way that you speak to yourself. Realize your successes and give yourself a pat on the back because no one else will do it for you.
5. It’s all about the positive vibes
How does that saying go... “Tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are”? Emotions and behaviors can be contagious and if you are always around people who tend to focus on mistakes and failures, then there is a good chance that those behaviors will rub off on you as well. Surround yourself with people who are positive - people who motivate and support you. You cannot avoid challenges and setbacks, but you can create a positive environment that includes friends and family that will lift you up when times get rough. It’s all about the positive vibes!
6. Do what you love
It is so easy to get caught up in the daily stresses of life. A lot of us tend to worry about the future and forget to focus on the now, which does not help our positive self talk. Things usually work out, and if you keep making up negative scenarios and situations, it will be hard for you to stay in a good mood and perform at your best. Forget about the things that you cannot change, relax and take time to reset. Figure out what makes you happy. What is that one thing you do that gets you in your bubble? If exercising is what takes your mind off things and gets you in a more positive mood, do it! Now I am not saying try and go to the gym everyday, but just taking the time to go for a 15-minute jog is a good start. When your realize that you are focusing too much on things you cannot control, take a step back and reset!
7. Highlight journal
It is easier said than done, but like I just mentioned, stop worrying about things that are out of your control. It is what it is folks. Learn from your mistakes and move on. If you are struggling with seeing the positives in a bad situation, I challenge you to start a highlight journal. At the end of each day, write down at least three things that went well. Now you might have the worst day ever - you missed your bus to get to work, your go-to lunch place ran out of your favorite sandwich, you have to stay and work until 9pm on a Friday, your best friend bailed on your evening plans, and to top it off you lost your wallet on the way home. Now what could you possibly write in your highlight journal at the end of the day?! You have to dig deep because at this point it is the little things that matter. Maybe your 9 month old son took his first steps, maybe when you got home a delicious dinner was waiting for you, and maybe on the bus ride after work where you lost your wallet, you bumped into an old high school friend that you were able to reconnect with. Shitty things happen and sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, so brush it aside and stop crying over spilt milk.
About the Author:
Camille Charbonneau, BEd, MHK
Mental Performance Consultant, Peak Perform
Certified Personal Trainer
Camille Charbonneau is the founder and lead Mental Performance Consultant at Peak Perform. As a health and fitness enthusiast, she teaches her clients how to develop mental toughness through what she likes to call “brain training”, and believes that mindfulness is a key factor in improving overall performance.