Positive Self-Talk Can Reduce Stress

On a typical day, my mind fills with thoughts as I begin debating how things are going wrong or that they may go wrong. That internal voice can be your greatest enemy or cheerleader.  Depending on which voice we listen to, our day can go one of two directions, stress-free or full of stress. If we focus on positive self-talk we can reduce stress in our lives.

Fight of Two Wolves

Many of us have heard the story of the Fight of Two Wolves that the grandfather tells his grandson. To refresh your memory, here it is again:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Mindset has a lot to do with how stressed we feel and how well we manage that stress. The easiest way to change our mindset is to improve our self-talk. Self-talk is our internal dialogue -in other words, how we talk to ourselves. Self-talk can be negative (You big dummy! Look what you did now! You’ll never get through this without being fired!) or positive (You’ve got this. You’re smart, talented, and know what you’re doing. It’s not that bad. Everything will be alright.) and most people use both kinds throughout the day.


Two Wolves in My Head

When I was growing up in the mountains of Sante Fe, New Mexico, every Thursday we got out of school early, boarded on a yellow school bus and drove, for what seemed four hours, to the local ski resort. The school organized for the 5th and 6th graders to learn how to snow ski. It was very exciting and new. We rode the pulley seat thing up the bunny slope. At the top, there was usually a pile up of beginners trying to stand back up and get used to moving around on snow skis.

The instructors would then line us up and give a little instruction. Each student then had the chance to show off their stuff. I will never forget what happened when it was my turn to show my skiing abilities. “I can’t do this”, I kept repeating again and again. At first my instructor, ignored my negativity, finally, she strongly replied, “You are right, you can’t do it, if you think you can’t. But if you tell yourself you can, then you can.” The stress of not being able to ski weighed heavily on me at first, but when I began to use positive self-talk, my stress reduced and my ski trips became enjoyable.

We are constantly talking to ourselves. It’s a running stream in our heads of both positive and negative thoughts. Negative self-talk increases stress levels, while positive self-talk reduces them. Negative self-talk also makes it harder to deal with our external stressors. It affects how happy we are, how well we perform at work, how easy learning new things is, and many other aspects of our lives.

Start paying attention to the messages you are sending yourself with your self-talk. Are they positive or negative? If you find that you primarily use negative self-talk, you can change it to positive self-talk. Here are three ways to help you make the change and reduce your stress levels.


Start by Reducing the Negativity

The first step is to reduce but not eliminate the negative parts of your self-talk. The goal of this step is to make these negative statements to yourself milder. You do this by catching yourself saying something negative and then repeating it with a milder version.

For instance, if you catch yourself saying, “I hate my job!” stop and say something milder such as “I dislike my job.” Or, if you tend to say things like “This is impossible!” change it to “This is incredibly difficult.” Practice will naturally shift you away from the more negative thoughts to the milder ones.


Slowly Introduce Positive Self-Talk

Once you’ve gotten in the habit of replacing the most negative thoughts with gentler ones, start replacing those statements with positive ones. For example, “This is incredibly difficult” can become “This is hard, but I can do it!” and then “I’ve got this!”


Start Using Positive Affirmations

Our thinking patterns are habits, just like everything else we do all the time. One way to help stop negative self-talk is to introduce positive affirmations regularly. Pick out a few affirmations that you like and say them to yourself multiple times a day. This will help you build up the habit of positive self-talk.


These three steps, when taken together, will help you permanently reduce your negative self-talk and make it more positive. This will reduce your stress levels, make you healthier, and increase your quality of life.


About the Author

I am Kathy Denise Hicks, Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist and author and I would love to connect with you to help you achieve your fitness and health goals. Correcting muscular imbalances can really help you function better. If you are looking to get moving, feel more energy, get out of pain, and lose a few pounds, I have a program that can help. My 14 Day Workout Trial, will give you an idea of the classes I offer.


Leave a Reply