If you’re a regular attendee of my virtual yoga sessions or a personal training client of mine, you’ve probably heard me say that “the way you talk to yourself matters,” and to maintain a “positive inner dialogue”. But what does that mean, and why do your private speech and internal dialogue matter?
Although I don’t love a lot of the principles he stood for, Henry Ford was right when he said “whether you think you can or cannot, you’re right”. The primary function of positive thinking is in helping you to become the person that you want to be.
Negative self talk and negative thinning can absolutely prevent you from reaching your goals and performing your best in each and every workout. But the power of a positive mind goes even further than that. I’ll explain why using the teachings of Patanjali Maharishi and what I learned as an Army Master Resilience Trainer (MRT) through the University of Pennsylvania’s positive psychology department.
Read on to find out more about how your dialogical self perspectives can affect cognitive distortions, social interactions, quality of life, and performance in the gym and beyond.
How Positive Self-Talk Improves Cognitive Processes in Everyday Life
One important function of positive self-talk is that it promotes optimism, which creates a positive feedback loop in the mind and body and promotes optimism. Optimism in turn raises dopamine and serotonin levels, which increase your cognitive performance and in turn, your physical performance. This is how self-talk functions as a tool that can upgrade your exercise routine.
Gratitude and optimism in self-talk and self-regulatory functions also help you self-regulate and better manage your energy expenditures. These concepts were iterated by both Patanjali Maharishi and the University of Pennsylvania’s psychology department. If you find yourself struggling to be optimistic, practicing gratitude can be helpful.
You can practice gratitude by “hunting the good stuff” (U of P) or looking for the silver linings in your day to day activity. Keeping a daily journal and recording the things, people, interactions, environmental factors, and events that you’re grateful for will help promote optimism over time. I always recommend journaling because it also functions as a chronological record of your physical training and changes in your body. Many yogis keep daily journals to detail their growth in yoga practice and to identify obstacles on the path to self-realization.
Energy management is important in both social interactions and in reaching peak performance, no matter what you’re doing. Your IZOF, or individual zone of optimal function, allows you to perform at your best without expending energy through anxiety or self-doubt. Your IZOF can help you nail a job interview, deliver a public speech, or play your best game of basketball. No matter what you’re doing, working in your IZOF is key, and relies on your ability to regulate your energy.
How to Control Ruminative Dialogues
Maybe you’re convinced now about the power of a positive inner dialogue and promoting optimism to better manage your energy expenditure. But what about those times when you simply cannot control your negative thought patterns?
Firstly, keeping that journal will help you identify patterns in rumination and negative self-talk and potentially what’s triggering them. From there, it’s up to you to take control of the parasympathetic feedback loop that connects negative thinking and less than optimal performance, or damaging social behavior and rumination.
Both yoga legends and psychologists agree that the key to this is in the way you breathe.
Taking advantage of deep breathing techniques and connecting with the breath can help bring your awareness to the physical self. It can also slow your heart rate, which tends to rise when anxiety and problematic thinking occurs. If you find that you can’t control your negative self-talk, take a moment to sit in quiet meditation and either verbally or internally recite some affirmations that can be helpful. Some affirmations that might help indifferent settings are the following:
“I am strong”
“I am resilient”
“I am capable of handling anything that comes my way”
“Only I control my own happiness and I choose to receive it”
If you’re a regular attendee of my virtual yoga sessions or a personal training client of mine, you’ve probably heard me say that “the way you talk to yourself matters,” and to maintain a “positive inner dialogue”. But what does that mean, and why do your private speech and internal dialogue matter? f our collective mental health. You can also find tons of free yoga and meditation instruction on YouTube.
Scattershot and spiraling negative thoughts
Scattershot rumination and spiraling rumination are terms used to describe thoughts that either move from extreme negative outcome to extreme negative outcome, or those thought patterns that spiral out of control, becoming more and more extreme and damaging.
To give an example of each, let’s assume you call your spouse, who does not answer your call. You begin ruminating, or losing control of your inner dialogue and self-talk. In scattershot thinking, you might think, “something has happened to my partner. I wonder if something has also happened to my child while they’re at school? Maybe something has gone wrong at my job too and I’m going to be fired. Maybe more terrible things will happen to my spouse, my job or my home”. Thoughts like these are unrelated, illogical, and expend your energy unnecessarily.
Spiraling thoughts might look something like this: “My spouse hasn’t answered, I know they’re either dead or cheating on me. I know they don’t love me anymore, and they’re planning to leave. I’ll probably lose custody of our child and lose my home in a divorce. I bet their new partner is much more attractive than I am, and my spouse doesn’t love me anymore. Maybe I should leave first or start packing my things. Maybe the police will show up soon to serve me with divorce papers”.
The reality is that your spouse simply hasn’t answered the phone. Ruminating is a waste of time and energy, and takes your focus away from your responsibilities and tasks at hand. Both of these types of thinking can be quieted with a positive inner dialogue, meditation and breath practice (pranayama).
If none of these techniques work for you, talking to a therapist might also help you to unpack and understand what triggers this type of thinking. There are also MRT practices and activities that can help. Sign up for coaching to harness the power of MRT skills, yogic principles, and your positive inner dialogue to transform your body and mind today.