Be kind to Yourself! The Evidence Is in…It Does Work!
As a therapist one of the most common problems my clients admit is the habit of talking to themselves in a mean voice. Maybe you know this one. We have a running dialogue with ourselves all the time. Our internal voice can criticize, predict negative outcomes and point out all your failures. It’s the voice that says “Um…you shouldn’t have said that …everyone is staring…what’s wrong with you…LOSER!”
However, this habit is never the symptom that brings someone to therapy. I must ask directly…What’s your internal voice say to you? Is it kind? Helpful? Encouraging? Or mean and critical?
Most often my clients chuckle a bit and describe the constant negative comments they give themselves. No one has ever told me they thought this was a problem! They totally accept that this is how we should talk to ourselves and I will want to scream Bull***t!! I never hear anyone say that their internal voice is loving and supportive. Sadly I also don’t hear them say that this is troubling them. They believe that it is perfectly Ok and not the problem at all.
Sometimes I even hear them say “If I don’t give myself a hard time who will?” It’s almost as if the expectation that we Be Kind to Ourselves is nonexistent. I remark that they do know better; they would never talk to someone else the way they communicate with themselves. Again, a knowing chuckle. Being mean to ourselves makes us feel bad! Why in the world do we do this?
So we work on this in therapy. My clients work towards trying to notice how frequently the negative messages come up and under what circumstances. They work on trying not to believe everything they think! We work towards changing the habit from negative to positive and to intentionally give themselves good messages. It takes time; it’s not easy to change old habits. However, once you commit to changing a habit you are on the path to improvement.
One of the most effective methods of shifting out of the negative thought patterns and into positive ones is to learn meditation. Meditation trains your brain to become aware of what it is thinking. This shift allows you to become less reactive to your thoughts. Instead you become more responsive. In that split second where you automatically go into a story about why you are a failure you can, with practice, become aware of the thought pattern and choose to dismiss this bad habit of the mind. I’m never going to tell anyone that this is easy. It takes effort, patience and belief that shifting this habit is needed to feel good. You are re-training your brain each time you choose another path. We know it can be done. Every time you learn something new this is what is happening. Don’t give up! Anything you’ve ever learned since the day you were born took time.
Here’s how to begin.
Learn to meditate. Find a local class or a Meditation Mentor. Call me. I can help.
1. Notice your thoughts.
2. Ask your self is this thought true?
3. Is there evidence to support your belief that this thought is true?
4. Is there another way to understand this thought?
5. What would life be like for you if you didn’t believe this thought?
Once you establish a new habit of questioning your thinking you are well on your way to shifting away from negative into positive thinking. This one shift can be life changing. Add on to this a daily meditation practice which supports this radical shift in thinking and you will be making great strides towards being kind to yourself.
If you need more encouragement to say nice things to yourself take a look at Dr. Masaru Emoto’s work with crystallized water. He photographed water crystals after being exposed to either positive or negative messages.
“Water exposed to (the words) Thank you formed beautiful hexagonal crystals, but water exposed to the word Fool produced crystals…malformed and fragmented.” (Emoto, The Hidden Messages in Water 2004)
Click here to see examples of Dr. Emoto’s work.
Be kind to yourself. Find ways to be encouraging and forgiving. Talking to yourself in a new way can change the way you think and feel about yourself. You can do this! If you’d like some assistance, please reach out to me!
Do you want to learn more about positive thinking?
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About the Author: Robin Byrne is a licensed therapist and knowledgeable meditation specialist from Scottsdale, Arizona. Check her out over at r3meditation.com!