Pay attention to self-talk

How is your self-talk influencing your life? Learn how to be mindful and more aware of the present moment.

Language and English classes provide strategies to learn how to read and write, but I don’t recall an English teacher ever explaining the power that words have to program us.

In the book, “Talk Sense to Yourself- The Language of Personal Power” by Chick Moorman, he provides strategies for changing your language. He states that language is programming and that many of us have erroneously been taught that language is an act of reporting rather than one of creating. We have learned to give little or no attention to how language structures the way we experience the world. Our language patterns are learned from our frames of reference and/or our environments. To replace the patterns we don’t want, we first have to become mindful of the language we are using. The definition of mindful – is to pay attention. 

Moorman states that once you notice your thoughts, words or actions, you are in a position to do something about them. This puts you in control.  He suggests starting with paying attention to your self-talk or your “head-stream,” as he calls it. A suggested practice is to take a few minutes when you first awaken to monitor your thoughts as they come and go without judgement. The aim is to just practice noticing. 

Notice how you talk to yourself. Listen for thoughts that center on “have-to” and “can’t.” Are your thoughts positive or negative? Get in touch with that constant chatter that goes on between your ears. Don’t get caught up in the conversation, just listen to it and stay conscious of your role as a listener. The skill of paying attention will improve with practice. Schedule listening times throughout the day and when you become more skilled at monitoring your internal language during your planned listening time, practice listening to yourself during non-scheduled times. 

Listen when you are driving the car, as you exercise or while standing in line at the grocery store. More importantly, listen to your “head stream” when you are feeling a strong emotion. What are you telling yourself? The goal is to be mindful of how you talk to yourself. When you become more proficient at hearing what you are telling yourself internally, turn your ear towards others and hear what they are saying with their language. Are they saying things that might be influencing the way you come to perceive the world? Michigan State University Extension offers social-emotional health programming and has a series entitled Stress Less with Mindfulness and RELAX: Alternatives to Anger that provide helpful skills and language to stay present and balanced through mindful practice and problem-solving.  

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