We all talk to ourselves in the privacy of our own thoughts. Often, this self-talk occurs in the background of one’s awareness, but it can have major impacts on how we feel and behave. During challenging times, negative self-talk undermines hope, escalates anxiety and worry, diminishes emotional wellbeing and can fuel generalized inflammation in the body.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) “Thought Chart”
An effective way to reduce this negative inner dialogue involves a method from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) called a “thought chart.” It works like this:
- First, identify a recurring negative thought. Tune in to your self-talk and listen to what you are telling yourself about your concern, whatever it is.
- Next, write down that negative thought on a sheet of paper exactly as you hear it in your head.
- Finally, write down a challenge to that negative thought that expresses compassion for yourself, or that broadens your perspective on the issue of concern.
Here’s an example:
- Identified negative thought: “If I get sick, I’ll end up in ICU, or worse.”
- One challenge: “It’s normal to be worried, but you’re doing your best to stay safe.”
- Another challenge: “It’s possible, but don’t’ assume you know what will happen.”
- Yet another challenge: “Imagining worst-case scenarios hurts more than helps.”
If you’d like to learn more about this and other ways to tame negative self-talk, consider reading Mind Over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky.