These tips are from Jess, who is an invaluable member of the HWFL Team with experience in both nursing and nutrition.
As someone who speaks with our members daily, a theme I commonly come across is negative self-talk. Have you ever heard that voice in your head? The one that lingers on mistakes, or replays certain events or things that were said that did not go the way you planned? Perhaps that voice is straight-up unkind regarding your appearance, work, or personality. Does this sound familiar? This mental chatter is what is known as ‘self-talk’.
This mental chatter tends to lean towards a negative soundtrack, and if we give it too much attention it can begin to affect our self-esteem, self-confidence and productivity.
Everyone experiences negative self-talk at some point throughout their day – however, how much influence we ALLOW these thoughts to have on ourselves is the issue. How we choose to engage with these thoughts, and the storylines we create for ourselves around these are what can interfere with our lives.
One of the greatest tips I have ever learnt was “just because we have that thought, does not mean that it is true”. Thoughts are just thoughts, whether negative or positive, and WE decide how much emotion we want to attach to them.
Meditation and mindfulness practice is something that we can incorporate into our lives to help reduce negative self-talk and cultivate self-compassion – especially when working towards our health goals. The aim is not to stop self-talk altogether, it is to listen and be curious about these thoughts without judgment and let them go. Self-compassion is the key to reducing negative self-talk. Treat your own fears, worries, concerns, and self-doubts with kindness like you would in response to a loved one and observe these thoughts in a nonjudgmental way (mindfulness).
While people may agree in theory that meditation and mindfulness is a “good idea”, many may reject it as an offhand “touchy-feely” topic – missing the significant impact it can have on our daily lives and overall health and wellbeing.
Did you know?
Studies suggest that how we speak to ourselves has an impact upon our mental and physical health, including aspects of our health such as stress management, and weight control.
What is meditation and mindfulness?
Meditation is generally a formal practice that can calm the mind and enhance our awareness of ourselves and the surrounding environment. Although a relatively new concept in Western society, it has been practiced in many cultures for millennia! Spending too much time in the future (for example: worrying about what needs to be done, where you are going, what is next) can lead us to feel anxious. While spending too much time in the past (for example: replaying events that have already happened that we cannot change) can lead us to feel sad and/or depressed. The term mindfulness simply means being aware of the present moment.
Three ways to cultivate daily mindfulness:
1) Slow down and take a big breath. Try box breathing – breathe in slowly for 4 seconds, breathe outs slowly for 4 seconds, in for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, and so on.
2) Listen to your surrounds – what can you hear? Listen to the birds, the road, your own breathing, the sizzle of the pan as you cook. What sounds are closest to you? Which are the furthest away? Tune into the present moment.
3) Set an alarm in your phone once or twice a day to STOP and check-in with yourself. Allow yourself that time – even just for 1min. Ask yourself – what am I feeling? What is the intensity? Is it comfortable or not? Where in my body do I feel this? Describe the sensations. Get to know YOU and what you may need.
These three exercises are a good starting point to cultivate mindfulness quickly into daily life – all in the privacy of your own mind. It allows us a precious minute to check in with the most important person we know – ourselves! Practicing these can see changes in the way we respond (or choose to ignore) that mental chatter, while also helping the way we may respond to our environment and those in it.
Please know that if you feel you may need to speak to someone further, there is help out there. Have a chat with your GP about organizing a mental health care plan to speak to a psychologist or try calling the friendly team at lifeline on 13 11 14.