You can’t do this.” “You’ll never learn.” “You’re not smart enough.” “You’re not good enough.” “You blew it.” “You don’t deserve this promotion.” No, those are not nasty things that people say to us. These are just some of the negative thoughts our “inner critic” pops into our brains throughout the day. It’s also called our self talk.
Our self talk can be positive or negative. Some of our self-talk is so negative that they make us feel bad about ourselves and take us away from what we’re working on. They may be strong enough to convince you to give up on a goal.
Fortunately, those thoughts originate from the inner critic inside of us – and we can learn how to manage those thoughts. Music, mantras, and meditation are three ways to manage our self talk.
Mantras are positive words or phrases that are repeated frequently. These are used to help to interrupt this negative chatter in our brains, when those thoughts are sucking you down into a black hole.
It’s kind of like when, as a kid perhaps, that you blocked your ears and repeated, “Na, na, na, na. I can’t hear you.” (Or maybe your kids did this to you).
It works. When you’re saying something loud enough, you can’t hear the chatter in the background.
I like to think of mantras as things that a kindly aunt or a best friend might say to you when you’re feeling down. Some people use simple words like “peace” or “joy” or “gratitude” to remind the body of a healthier focus.
Other mantras are full phrases that are truths or strengths you have, such as “I am good enough” or “I can do this” or “I am persistent.”
Perhaps you need a mantra to remind you that "this too shall pass" or "it is what it is."
Have you ever noticed that some words from songs, including ad jingles, can get stuck in your brain?
When I’m presenting at a conference I might start singing, “Sometimes you feel like a nut” and then reach out to my audience for them to respond. And, even though this ad hasn’t been heard on the air in decades, there’s always plenty in the audience that sings back, “Sometimes you don’t.” If you didn't know, that was part of an ad jingle for Almond Joy candy decades ago.
Since songs can get stuck in our brains, why not pick a “theme song” to help you through difficult times?
I like James Brown’s “I Feel Good.” I don't even know all the words, but singing the "na, na, na, ha" just makes me feel good.
What's YOUR feel good song?
Too often people try to debate with the negative thoughts of the inner critic, much like they would if someone were to say these things to our face.
But, this is a waste of energy. For some, arguing with the voice in our head can further validate those thoughts.
We will always have these inner thoughts. The key is to allow them to live within us, without having them sabotage our actions and goals.
One way to not let those thoughts of ours get us down is to practice mindful meditation.
Mindful meditation means different things to different people but it can be as simple as being quiet and noticing these thoughts that pop into our brain with a curious mind - without judgement.
The more you practice mindful mediation, the more easily it will be to not let these thoughts hijack us during the day.