All of have voices in our heads that provide both insight and criticism on our thoughts and actions. Don’t worry – it’s not a type of mental illness. In fact, these voices are actually our subconscious minds chiming in on whether or not we’re behaving in ways that are consistent with our core values and principles.
In an ideal situation, these voices allow us to moderate our behavior and bolster our self-confidence. Unfortunately, in too many situations, they take on an ugly, negative tone. Over time, consistently having the voices in your head speak to you in this way can trash your self-esteem and allow doubt
For this reason, it’s imperative that you take the time to get the voices in your head on your team. When you’ve got a supportive, confident group of mental cheerleaders encouraging you and reassuring you that you’re valuable and worthwhile, you’ll be nearly unstoppable in whatever activities you decide to pursue!
If that situation sounds appealing, check out the following process for transforming your mental critics into positive supporters:
Step #1 – Identify negative thought patterns
As with so many things in life, the first step to fixing the problem of overly-negative mental patterns is to admit that you have a problem in the first place!
Unfortunately, identifying the specific instances in which negative thought patterns occur can be challenging, as it requires a level of consistent mental awareness that few of us are used to maintaining. To get into the habit of identifying negative thought patterns, practice pausing every time you feel upset or uncomfortable and taking note of what the voices in your head are telling you.
For example, suppose you’ve recently broken your current weight loss resolution and chowed down on a towering piece of chocolate cake. At first, you might feel angry, upset or just a vague sense of unease that you’ve done something that’s inconsistent with your stated goals. As soon as you feel one of these sensations, take a second to tune in to the voices in your head.
If you listen closely, you might hear them saying things like, “I can’t believe you just ate that, you fat slob!” or “You don’t deserve to be happy if you can’t stick with a simple resolution like this!” Don’t panic if your mental voices sound crueler than you initially anticipated – we’ll get around to squashing them in the next two steps!
Step #2 – Explore the impact these patterns have on you
As you become better able to track and monitor the negative thoughts that are occurring within your mind, begin to commit an equal amount of time identifying the impact these thought patterns have on you.
Following our previous example, if you hear the voices in your mind commenting negatively on your inability to stick to a diet resolution, take a moment to identify how these statements make you feel.
Do you feel worthless? Humiliated? Inadequate? Unconfident? Over time, you’ll begin to notice patterns in the way your mind responds to negative situations and experiences. Maybe you typically respond to the voices in your head by getting angry, or maybe you’re the type who tries to drown out their noise with food, alcohol or other substances. Don’t beat yourself up about the way you respond – at this point, it’s important just to observe how you interact with the voices in your head.
Step #3 – Replace negative thoughts with positive ones
Now that we’ve identified both the specific negative things our mental voices are saying and the way these statements make us feel, we can start the process of replacing bad thoughts with positive ones using the swish pattern!
Begin by calling up a memory of a situation in which the voices in your mind spoke to you negatively. Really allow yourself to embrace this memory, bringing up all of the feelings, emotions and sensations you experienced at that point in time.
Once this memory is clear in your mind, release it and replace it with the image of a stop sign. Spend a few seconds visualizing this stop sign before releasing this second image and focusing on a chosen affirmation that reframes your mental criticisms in a positive way. For example, a few potential affirmations that could be used in this process include:
- I am a valuable, worthwhile person.
- I always try my hardest to improve my situation.
- I am worthy of self-respect.
Tailor your specific affirmation to the negative feelings that you usually experience in response to the voices inside your head, and practice this process whenever you feel an undesirable response coming on. Over time and with consistent effort, you should be able to banish these harmful thoughts and replace them with positive mental voices by simply visualizing the stop sign image you practiced with – allowing you to get the voices in your head on your side once and for all!