Who do you talk to the most?
Think about it for a minute. Maybe you’re thinking: “my spouse, my kids, my friends, or my coworkers.”
None of the above. The person you talk to the most daily is, without question, yourself.
We each have around 70,000 self-talk thoughts a day. And here’s the problem—80% of them are negative.
When we hear a steady barrage of negative words from the person we talk to by far the most, life becomes anything but simple.
Disempowering thoughts (I’m a bad mom, I’m a mess, I’m so overwhelmed, This day is terrible), especially when repeated often, drag us down and complicate our lives. These thoughts distract us from the present moment, keep us from meeting our goals and stop us from fully living our lives.
Enter. . . the idea of decluttering.
We usually think of decluttering in terms of possessions—discarding the stuff that keeps us from living our best life. But the same can be done with self-talk thoughts.
Thoughts need to be routinely examined and then either kept or trashed. Those that are truthful and empowering stay, while those that don’t serve us are shed.
Mental decluttering, like physical decluttering, takes time and effort but is worth it. The fewer negative self-talk thoughts that fill our minds daily, the simpler our lives become.
Here are 5 ways to declutter your self-talk to build a simpler life:
1. Start the minute you get out of bed
Self-talk thoughts start the minute you wake up. What are you telling yourself first thing in the morning? You can set the whole tone for your day by choosing to tell yourself “This day is going to be a great one. I’m able to confidently handle anything that comes my way.” Or “I have so much to do today, and I’ll never be able to get it all done. I’m so overwhelmed already.”
To trigger empowering self-talk thoughts in the morning, think of a physical cue. In his book Pivot & Go, David Nurse suggests using your bathroom mirror as a cue for positive self-talk. When you pass by your mirror in the morning, wipe your hand in front of it to signify that you’re wiping away any “fog of self-doubt” and are fully confident in your ability to tackle the day.
When you tell yourself the day will be a great one, your subconscious mind begins looking for ways to support that. You’ll find yourself more optimistic, more grateful, and more able to accomplish your goals. If your first thoughts of the day are negative, it will take work to pull them back to a good place during the day.
2. Catch and replace automatic negative thoughts
Self-talk thoughts actually change your brain chemistry. Every one of them. Positive self-talk thoughts boost neurotransmitters like dopamine while negative ones deplete them.
Most negative thoughts have become so routine they go unnoticed and unquestioned, making them difficult to declutter. According to clinical neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Amen, eliminating automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) can be learned by watching your thoughts closely. Once identified, ANTs must be smashed by truth statements.
One example of an ANT is labeling: “I’m so impatient. How could I be such a jerk to my kids? I’m a bad mom.”
These distorted thoughts lead to negative feelings and stop your ability to see a situation clearly. They can be countered with truth statements in this way: “That situation tested my patience. I’m human and make mistakes. I’m showing up and doing my best.”
Life becomes much simpler when you’re able to identify and let go of these automatic negative thoughts. Ruminating on automatic, untrue self-talk steals your joy and your ability to stay present.
3. Help change the self-talk of those around you
Increase your awareness of your own self-talk by listening to the self-talk of those around you. Our six-year-old daughter has recently begun saying she is “terrible” at things when she’s feeling frustrated. If she’s losing at a card game, she’ll say “I’m terrible.” Or, if something she draws isn’t just how she wants it, again, she sometimes labels herself as “terrible.” This phrase isn’t something she’s heard modeled at home, so when I first heard it, I knew I had to address it.
What we say about ourselves becomes the way we see ourselves—and she is definitely not terrible. Turns out, she didn’t even realize she was calling herself this, so the first step was raising awareness. We worked together to catch the word “terrible” when it came out and exchange it with an accurate statement such as “I’m feeling frustrated” or “I’m great and am doing my best right now.” Teaching your children to do this will help them live more fully and confidently.
4. Practice empowering others with your words
Speaking empowering words to others will do two things. You’ll build up the people around you and you’ll bring positive words to the top of your mind, which increases the likelihood you’ll use them in your self-talk.
This is especially important for parents. Recent research shows that words spoken to children under age six are achieved directly into their subconscious brain which affects their self-esteem in the long term.
Choose two or three people daily you plan to send love through the way you speak to them. You could do this via phone or text, too. Remember, words are powerful. With some intentionality, their use can enrich the lives of those around you while also strengthening your own self-talk.
5. Close the day with gratitude
Include empowering self-talk when you reflect on your day. Before bed, think of three things you’re grateful for about yourself. Then affirm yourself in these areas. You might say, “I’m grateful for my perseverance, my courage, my confidence, my passion, my calm demeanor, or my energy.”
This isn’t about being prideful. As a Christian, I thank God for these gifts, knowing He is their source and wants these gifts to be acknowledged, received and used.
The more we label the good things in ourselves, the more we become these good things. And the less often non-supportive verbiage will pop-up in our self-talk.
Wayne Dyer said, “The state of your life is nothing more than the state of your mind.”
Our minds, like our homes, need to be decluttered for us to live our best lives. Decluttering your home and living in a simple environment that you love will help unburden your mind. No question. But if you’re in the habit of negative self-talk, a decluttered home won’t erase it.
Improving our self-talk can be done with practice and effort. I encourage you to choose one of the ideas above and try it out today.
Your life will be simpler, fuller, and more intentional for it.
About the Author: Julia Ubbenga is a freelance journalist whose teachings on minimalism, simplicity, and intentional living have reached thousands of people worldwide through her blog www.richinwhatmatters.com. Julia practices what she preaches in her Kansas City apartment home with her husband and two extremely lively young daughters.