Talk

“Hate is stronger than love.” A commentator on ESPN radio said this yesterday. His words stopped me in my tracks. He continued to say things like “we live in a world where hate is stronger than love, where the negative has more power than the positive….people are more interested in drama than happiness….” I suddenly felt so sad.

Are we truly conditioned to be negative?

Think about how you were raised. What did you learn when you were growing up?  I feel blessed to have learned from a clan who offered unconditional love, celebrations of hope, and words of encouragement. But members of my clan also regularly said things aloud like “Ugh, I’m so fat!” or “I’m ugly” or “I’m so stupid.” They never said those things to me, but I spent my upbringing listening to them talk to themselves like that. And thus I – consciously or unconsciously – learned to talk to myself like that.

These are not words of love. My elders were so good at loving others but struggled to give that same love to themselves. Everyday we receive messages from our family, friends, the media….that influence our self-love.

What sort of self-love messages did you – do you – receive? The answer has a direct impact on your health and happiness. We must recognize our habitual ways of thinking and the contents of our thoughts because as long as we continue to reject ourselves, we continue to harm our own body, mind and spirit.

Self-talk is an important strategy for health behavior change. Meaning, the way you think and make statements, internally and/or externally, about yourself determines your habits. Self-talk serves as the seed for controlling perceptions, beliefs and attitudes.

Athletes use self-talk for performance enhancement. Whether it’s to direct attention (“focus”), manage energy (“relax”), label the self or others (“I suck”), judge (“great job”), or contribute or undermine a performance, self-talk can be a very powerful skill. An athlete can use self-talk to boost confidence, focus attention, and/or correct bad habits. So can you.

Before you can use self-talk, though, you must be able to recognize it. Do you know how you talk to yourself? If not, a few ways to cultivate this awareness include:

-Journaling. Keep a daily, running memo of your thoughts. Let it be an organic flow of consciousness that includes the context (e.g. at work, during training, in the shower) in which the statements surfaced,

-Meditating. Dedicate time each day to being still to create time and space for your thoughts.

-Keeping score. Design a simple way to keep track of positive and negative thoughts. For example, a piggy bank. Every time you have a positive thought, place a penny in the bank. Remove a penny for every negative thought. What is your balance at the end of the week?

You may not be able to control the way others talk, but you have total control over self-talk. Or at least, you can.  How are your words serving your health and happiness?

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