Self-Compassion: How to Change Your Self-Talk

In an age of social media, competitive workplaces and demanding lives, it’s hard to fight the pressure to be perfect.

You may find yourself slipping into negative thought patterns throughout the day, beating yourself up over small mistakes which can lower your self-esteem. But taking care of your mental health is more important now than ever – according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America report, diagnoses of major depression have risen by 33 percent since 2013, and this number is still rising.

Continual self-deprecation can make you more susceptible to mental illnesses as well as physical illnesses. Research at King’s College London has found that repetitive negative thinking (RNT) can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease by putting your body into a fight-or-flight response. The stress from destructive self-talk releases cortisol, a stress hormone, which can increase your risk for the disease or accelerate symptoms as it builds up in the brain.

Repetitive negative thinking doesn’t always mean being a pessimist – it’s how you talk to yourself daily. Do you easily forgive yourself, or do you ruminate over your shortcomings for days?

If you find yourself falling into a repetitive negative thought pattern, try practicing self-compassion. Self-compassion is the idea of treating yourself in a non-judgmental way after a mistake or disappointment, approaching it as if you were a loved one in the same situation. It doesn’t mean being overly optimistic, but accepting a situation you might be stressed or disappointed about.

If you’re looking to change your self-talk, use some of our tips for curbing your negative thought patterns:

  • If you find yourself thinking negatively after making a mistake, ask yourself how you would treat a friend in the same situation – then give yourself the same advice.
  • Remember that you are human. Take a setback as a learning opportunity rather than a shortcoming and use it as a prod for self-improvement.
  • Listen to your body. Allow yourself to eat when you’re hungry, rest when you’re tired, and take a moment to yourself when you’re feeling overwhelmed. This will teach you to treat yourself with kindness and see your needs as valid.
  • Practice mindfulness. There are plenty of guided meditations and practices online, where you can take some time to quiet your mind and take care of yourself.
  • Do at least one thing a day just for yourself. In a world where you feel as if you’re pulled in a hundred directions, taking time for yourself shows that you are worthy of care – and that your well-being should come before anything else.
  • Keep a journal where you’re able to dump your thoughts before you go to sleep at night. It’ll help you take them out of your brain and let you view your situation from an outside perspective.
  • See a therapist. Though many have the misconception that seeing a therapist is a defeat, it really marks the beginning of taking charge. Therapy can give you a new viewpoint, boost your self-confidence, and open your mind to changing your thought pattern.

It can be difficult to put these habits into place, especially if you’ve already fallen into a cycle of negative thinking. Start small by picking one tip per day to work on, then stick to your plan. With a bit of perseverance, you’ll be on your way to a healthier mind and body.

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Photo credit: Hannah Brauer, A Healthier Michigan

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