Negative Self Talk Exercises For Adults

Try these negative self talk exercises to increase your awareness:

  • Be mindful of your self talk upon waking. What are you thinking about? What does the little voice say to you when you open your eyes? Is it things like...

“Grrr, I could really use more sleep.”
“Woo hoo! I can't wait to get started on my plans for the day.”
“I'm so cozy here in bed, but I've got to get the kids up for school, better hurry...”
“Ugh! My job sucks! I hate this day!”

  • Be mindful of your self talk while tackling your daily tasks.

Do you replay conversations in your own head?
Do you reflect on jokes you heard and funny stories that you plan to share with your mate or your friends or family later?
Do you think, “Ugh, my to-do list never ends?”
Do you think things like, “Woo hoo, I'm almost finished! I'm so awesomely efficient!”

  • Be mindful of your self talk at other, key points of your day.

What does your self talk say while you're stuck in traffic?
What does your self talk say when you're with your kids (if you're a parent)?
What does your self talk say when you're waiting on line at a store, holding for customer service, or stopping at the gas station?

Once you start negative self talk exercises, you'll begin to notice certain patterns. You'll see which times of day are your “best” times versus when you may need to dial down the busyness and take a break. You'll even notice which people tweak your sensitivity buttons, and you might even consider changing how you react to them!

Self talk can help us learn a lot about ourselves. What did that little voice say to you today?

How to Change Your Negative Self Talk to Positive

Are you tuning in to your own self talk and what it means for your approach to living, your personal needs, and the relationships you have with others? Are you beginning to understand that not only is your own inner dialogue very telling, but it's also totally within your control?

You can use the incredible power of becoming aware of your own self talk, to change the voice of your own subconscious. In doing negative self talk exercises, you will make gradual but lasting changes in your life that steer you on to a better course.

If you have already begun to take notice of your inner dialogue, and the thoughts that form in your own mind at any given time, then it's time to take the next step. Go beyond just paying attention to, and making note of, the kinds of things you say to yourself.

Negative self talk exercises will help you rewrite the script. With each less-than-desirable thought that you might say to yourself, change the wording to something more optimistic, supportive, empowering, and positive.

Before and after negative self talk scenarios

  • Scenario 1: Late for Work

You're late for work again. Your self talk pipes up with “You idiot! You're always late and your boss is going to be pissed!” Instead of becoming consumed with these negative thoughts, use this opportunity to change the dialogue. If you had a friend sitting next to you, what would you hope that friend might say to help you feel better?

Do this for yourself now, in the form of your own self talk. So instead of “You idiot,” etc. you might just take a few deep breaths, shrug your shoulders, and say, “Well, I'm late. Nothing I can do but try to arrive at work safely, as soon as I can. This isn't ideal. But now I know that I should probably leave ten minutes earlier to avoid predicaments like this one!

  • Scenario 2: Family Dynamics

Your family dinner has turned into a heated discussion which is on the verge of becoming a full blown argument. You want to say something to help calm everyone down. Your self talk says to you, “Forget it, these people are out of control, and no one is going to listen to me anyway!” You're thinking that downing a few extra glasses of wine might be the only option.

What can you do to change the self talk to something effective and empowering this time? How about, “Hey, these people need me to help them see the value in each other. I'll know I'll feel good if I can get everyone to relax and appreciate someone else's viewpoint.” You sit for a bit to listen some more, then slowly and carefully make your move to restore peace and tranquility.

  • Scenario 3: New Job Psych-Out

A new job opening has been posted at work. You've been at your position for a while now, feeling unchallenged. You wonder if this lateral move might result in a pay raise. Your self talk comes up with the following:

“Oh, don't even bother. You won't be able to handle the change, plus who wants to go through the extra work of having to update my resume and get trained all over again?”

This type of internal dialogue can definitely limit your chance at making more money. It can also prevent you from adding to your skillset, which might bring other promising career opportunities down the road.

Can you change your self talk to something more optimistic? How about “Wow, I've been waiting for a chance to do something that gets me noticed around here. This could end up as a pay increase for me! I'd better get going on my resume. Even if I don't get the job, at least I'll have accomplished an important step for my career advancement.”

  • Scenario 4: Empty Nest Blues

Your kids are headed off to college. It's a bittersweet time for sure. You're looking at empty childhood bedrooms and a flood of mixed emotions: pride, joy, sadness, fear. Your self talk comes out with this: “Oh, I'm not needed anymore. What a terrible, hollow feeling. How will I ever survive. Will my children be able to manage without me?”

This is the perfect opportunity to become aware of your inner dialogue and consciously elevate the conversation. Replace sadness with hope, fear with eager anticipation. “My kids have done amazing this far in life.

They've made big plans for themselves, and accomplished everything they set out to. I'm proud of them. I know they'll do great at college, and in this new and exciting chapter of life. And if they need me, I'm only a phone call or a few hours' drive away.”

With practice and conscious effort, you can become more in tune with what your self talk is telling you, and choose to emphasize, or replace and rise above, the emotions that you're currently experiencing.

In time, the voice of your self talk will become like a comfortable old friend. You'll recognize when the old, defeatist thoughts and fears surface. And just like a real-life friend, you can reassure the voice in your head, that everything is okay, and you can figure out what to do to solve your own problems and steer your life in a positive direction.

Read more articles related to negative self talk exercises:

  1. Positive Affirmation Activities for Adults
  2. Positive Self Talk For Kids
  3. Positive Self Talk and Negative Self Talk

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  • National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255


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