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 well-being, and can fuel generalized inflammation in the body.
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 thought that is negative. 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.