Positive self-talk is an internal dialogue that makes a person feel good about themselves. A person can use positive self-talk to think optimistically and feel motivated. Identifying negative self-talk is the first step toward thinking more positively.

A person’s communication with themselves is called self-talk or internal dialogue. It is a natural cognitive process. People might engage in self-talk more when they face obstacles or challenges. People use self-talk either silently or speak to themselves out loud.

Self-talk can be positive or negative.

This article discusses positive self-talk and its benefits. It also provides examples of how people can break the habit of negative self-talk.

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Positive self-talk makes a person feel good about themselves. It can encourage and motivate a person to keep going, look on the “bright side,” and put things into perspective. Examples of positive self-talk are, “I am really happy for myself,” “I am doing well,” or “That is not great, but it could be worse”.

Read about whether talking to yourself is normal here.

Positive self-talk can benefit mental health, performance, and relationships.

For example, a 2020 Iranian study suggested that self-talk affected how people coped with anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. People who reported using positive self-talk had less anxiety about death and fewer symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The study also found that people who engaged in positive self-talk developed effective strategies to cope with their emotions and mental stress.

A 2019 study found that when students recited a self-affirming statement before delivering a speech or presentation, they experienced less performance anxiety than students who did not.

For athletes and individuals who participate in sport, positive self-talk may be motivating and help improve technical performance. 2020 research found that positive self-talk can also help athletes stay engaged and have fun.

Research indicates that how people address themselves during self-talk affects how they feel. For example, according to a 2014 review, using non-first-person pronouns — such as ‘you’ and one’s name, rather than first-person pronouns such as ‘I’ — helps people regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behavior under social stress.

A 2019 study backs this theory, indicating that using second-person pronouns in positive self-talk improved the performance times and output in endurance sports settings.

People may engage in negative self-talk if they feel anxious or insecure or when they are in a situation where they lack confidence or self-belief.

Negative self-talk can have a detrimental effect on a person’s self-esteem and belief in their self-worth and abilities. The College of Cognitive Behavioural Therapies (CCBT) suggests that negative self-talk can lead to a vicious cycle and self-fulfilling prophecy.

For example, if a person tells themselves that they will not be able to do something, they may be less likely to put effort into doing it. Then when they fail, the person might think, “I knew I could not do it. That is typical.”

Individuals can use positive self-talk to counteract repetitive negative thinking (RNT). Research from 2018 suggests that RNT is a risk factor for the severity, persistence, and relapse of depression and anxiety.

Noticing negative self-talk and turning it around before it takes hold can help people think more positively and change their behaviors. The CCBT suggests that positive or negative self-talk becomes a habit that people can change.

The first step in making self-talk more positive is to identify negative thinking. A person can notice how they talk with themselves when faced with challenges. It may help to write down examples of negative self-talk.

A person can then think of more helpful things they can say to themselves in challenging situations. Below are some examples of how to turn negative self-talk into positives:

Negative self-talkPositive self-talk
That is too difficult.It sounds challenging.
I cannot do it.I will give it my best shot.
I always mess things up.If I mess up, I will learn from it.
I have always been this way.I am open to change.
I will fail.I want to succeed.
My life is awful.I am lucky. My life could be worse.
No one likes me.I like myself.
I do not know anything.I want to learn.

If negative self-talk affects a person’s mental health, they should speak with a doctor. Negative self-talk and repetitive thoughts could be signs of an underlying condition such as anxiety, depression, or OCD.

A doctor may advise a person about support groups or health professionals who can help them address their self-talk.

For someone who occasionally has negative thought patterns or self-talk, making lifestyle changes may help. For example, research indicates that exercise can help to reduce anxiety. Activities such as mindfulness or meditation may help a person feel more positive and relaxed.

Self-talk is the internal dialogue a person has with themselves and is a natural cognitive process.

Positive self-talk can help a person feel encouraged, motivated, and optimistic. It can be used as a coping strategy when a person faces challenges.

People can use positive affirmations and self-talk to overcome negative thinking and improve their confidence and self-esteem.

However, if an individual experiences repetitive negative thoughts or self-talk, they should contact a doctor, as they may have an underlying mental health condition.