Have you ever heard of a swear-jar? A study done on self-regulated speech defines a swear-jar: “In its simplest namesake form, it is a glass jar, typically labelled “swear jar,” often adding a specific amount of money that must be tossed in for each expletive said aloud.” The study researches the effects of willful censorship on our mind. Similarly, how might censoring our own negative self-talk, and thereby actively focusing on positive self-talk, affect our mind?
First, let’s look at how negative self-talk affects us. A study published by the non-profit PLOS ONE found that, “Thinking styles such as self-blame and rumination are two examples of psychological processes most commonly implicated across a wide range of mental health problems.” Meaning that there is a link to negative self-talk and mental health issues. VeryWellMind also notes that negative self-talk can affect our relationships: “Whether the constant self-criticism makes you seem needy and insecure or you turn your negative self-talk into more general negative habits that bother others, a lack of communication and even a “playful” amount of criticism can take a toll.” Therefore, it is clear that negative self-talk can be detrimental to one’s mental health and even social relationships.
Though it is difficult to study and categorize all of the effects of self-talk, both negative and positive, the reputable Mayo Clinic acknowledges the following researched benefits of positive self-talk:
“Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress”
Just as much as negative-self talk can negatively impact our lives, positive self-talk inversely has a positive impact on our lives! Positive self-talk can be as simple as giving one’s self a compliment. How can such a simple act of self-kindness impact us so incredibly? Walden University says, “Replacing negative psychological messages with positive ones can build self-esteem and confidence.” These building blocks of confidence helps us both mentally and physically. A study published in 2011 found that, “Results indicated beneficial effects of positive, instructional, and motivational self-talk for performance.” When participants in the study were purposeful in their mind and body relationship with positive self-talk, they performed better! Imagine finding it easier to study, workout, give a presentation, or even manage stress. Now imagine the thing that could help you do all that is simply being kinder to yourself. It might be time to pay yourself a compliment.
So we know now how positive self-talk can help your performance, and they Mayo Clinic gave many examples of how positive self-talk affects us physically, but researchers have only barely scratched the surface of how positive self-talk helps our mind. Here are two ways it does just that:
1. Positive Self-Talk = A Positive Perception
When we think more positively about ourselves, there is evidence to support that we think more positively about everything! NPR quotes a neuroscientist as they explored this concept: “[Dr. Branch] Coslett thinks self-talk probably does shape the physiology of perception, given that other sensory perceptions — the intensity of pain, for example, or whether a certain taste is pleasing or foul, or even what we see — can be strongly influenced by opinions, assumptions, cultural biases and blind spots.” What we think about our reality effects how we experience it. Therefore, if we are actively positive towards ourselves, we’ll feel more positive overall.
2. Positive Self-Talk = A Reduction in Anxiety
Anxiety has strong links to self-talk. Positive Psychology cites a study done in 2007 on the connection between anxiety and self-talk in children: “They found that reducing negative self-talk mediated substantial treatment gains in the children with a diagnosis.” Anxiety is complicated mental health disorder that effects an estimated 284 million people globally. How might that number change with proper treatment combined with positive self-talk, as in the cited study?
Looking in the mirror and feeling good about what you see isn’t always the easiest thing. In 2010 a study found a significant lack of self-esteem even in children as young as 10. Positive self-talk is important—for our performance, for our mental health, and for ourselves. Instead of a swear-jar, it’s possible that a negative self-talk jar could help in so many ways.