What you tell yourself matters. In a study published by the Journal of Clinical Psychological Science, researchers found that individuals who verbally expressed compassion and kindness toward themselves scored higher in mental and physical health than those who more critical. It’s surprising that words alone had the greatest influence on our health. Saying things such as, “Nothing ever works out for me,” or “It’s impossible to be upbeat with what’s happening in the world,” and, “No matter how hard I try, I get pushed right back down,” defines the choices you make and limits your ability to be creative and adventurous. Critical words affect our moods too, making us feel unmotivated, resentful, and angry at those who succeed.
The problem with letting your self-talk define your choices is that our feelings come and go. You may be in a place where you feel hopeless or sad, but these feelings will change, and the sadness should not define who you are. Saying, “I feel sad right now, but I understand this too shall pass,” is much more helpful to your health than saying, “I’m doomed, and everything is going wrong in my life.”
When we use negative words, we turn ourselves into victims rather than survivors! Feeling like a victim can lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. If you’re feeling less motivated and excited about life, these suggestions can help you choose a more compassionate way to think and talk about your life.
- Notice things about yourself and your life that you like. List at least 2 to 3 traits you admire about yourself. When is the last time you helped someone by listening or being there for them? We need positive memories of things we do well.
- Drown out the critical inner voice. Everyone has a critical voice, but your critical voice shouldn’t be louder than the positive voice. They are just thoughts, and they wash over you like feelings. Acknowledge them but let them go. They are fear-based and only weaken you.
- Learn to appreciate your body. Your body is more than a sex symbol. Give it the respect it deserves for all it does for you. Stop allowing limited views of beauty to control your opinion of your body.
- Forgive yourself when you make a mistake. Mistakes are an opportunity to grow. No one succeeds without them. The sooner you forgive yourself, the sooner you will have compassion to forgive others. Holding yourself or someone else hostage for a mistake they made in the past is analogues to trying to stop time…you cannot.
- Be kind to others. When you use words to express kindness, it lowers your stress score, making you feel better about yourself. This promotes more compassionate feelings back to you, making you less critical of yourself.
With advances in mind-body research, we are learning the intricacies between the words we use to describe ourselves and our lives and their effects on the way we experience situations. Work done in preventive medicine is teaching patients about the importance of what they say to themselves during chronic illness. Showing compassion to yourself and those around you creates a sense of wellbeing, healing, and emotional and physical health.