“I should stop watching the news.”
My husband and I utter this phrase several times a week and have been doing so since late March 2020.
Sure, we’re curious what the weather is doing, but the daily bombardment of headlines designed to alarm and provoke us has become something to be avoided. Each headline seems to be more divisive than the last and, the more we watch, the more convinced we become that humanity is in serious peril. Perhaps irreparable.
Quite frankly, I don’t like thinking that way.
These negative thoughts demotivate me and leave me feeling sluggish and pessimistic. And those unproductive thoughts – that slip into the first part of my day and make me think, “Why bother?”– are starting to become an insidious and unconscious daily habit.
Of course, there are plenty of reasons to bother. Things won’t stay like this forever. And practising daily self-care will get us through the tough stuff.
We need to be brushing our teeth and drinking enough water. We ought to be eating healthy and remembering to exercise. If we’re really on task, we might also be doing something to expand our minds or work toward a specific goal, like finish reading that book or promoting ourselves to clients.
But when we become captivated by the headlines, we suffer. We start to think there’s no escape from escalating violence, conflict and destruction. So “Why bother?” becomes an unconscious mantra.
But consider this: What would you say the single most important thing to do every day is?
Chances are you answered something to do with sleeping properly or taking care of your physical health.
Believe it or not, there’s something even more critical, and it has to do with our self-talk.
Maintaining a positive inner dialogue, also known as positive self-talk, is the one thing that motivates everything else we do. When we’re positive, we’re able to put in the effort to take care of ourselves – when we see the value of bothering.
When we encourage ourselves, those tremendous, big goals (not to mention all the small ones) become possible. Think of positive self-talk as the fuel that makes us move.
With so much riding on what we’re saying to ourselves, how do we keep the dialogue optimized?
Here are some of the things I’ve started doing:
Know the triggers
Certain people, places, news stories, and situations will raise an instant series of emotional responses and negative self-talk messages.
Knowing what those are in advance helps me defuse the situation before it gets out of hand. Or it at least allows me to make an intentional choice about how I consume those messages.
Do an inventory
Periodically, I check my inner dialogue. Is it getting toxic/negative? Do I sound discouraged or apathetic? When I’m talking with friends and family, am I speaking in a way that fosters ‘doomsday conversations’ or discourages hopefulness? Am I overly focused on what can’t be done versus what can?
Being mindful helps me to insert positive dialogue cues as needed to keep things more productive.
There will always be challenging situations happening in the world, but there are also fabulous stories of hope, opportunity and prosperity. When I’m getting caught up in the daily headlines, I focus on those for a while.
It’s impossible to stay negative when laughing. Looking for the humour in situations helps me stay positive.
Hang with the right crowd
I’ve found it’s easy to have my mood affected by those I spend the most time with. When I stick around positive, high-performing people, their upbeat energy tends to rub off.
Creating positive affirmations and repeating them starts the process of integrating specific thoughts into my daily dialogue. Keeping these affirmations where I can see them and read them helps shift any pessimistic thought patterns.
So leave notes to yourself in a location where you will read those words again and again until they become part of who you are and how you think.
Remind yourself every day what you want to focus on.
I read a post a while ago that reminded me I should talk to myself the way I talk to my dogs:
- “My, aren’t you a clever girl.”
- “Look at that happy face.”
- “Come on, let’s go out for a walk and a treat.”
Every time I think of these statements, it brings a smile to my face and shifts any dark mood I might find myself in.
Engaging in daily positive self-talk is the one habit I want to spend time nurturing. There’s no substitute for this kind of dialogue, which means I will need to put in the effort until these actions become automatic.
How about you? Is it time to change that negative dialogue?
Faith Wood is a novelist and professional speaker who focuses on helping groups and individuals navigate conflict, shift perceptions and improve communications. For interview requests, click here.
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