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What is self-talk?

Self-talk is the way you talk to yourself, or your inner voice. You might not be aware that you're doing it, but you almost certainly are.

Self-talk is important because it has a big impact on how you feel and what you do.

How can self-talk affect your mental health?

If you mainly think negatively about yourself, you will feel bad most of the time. This can drag you down or if you’re down, it can be hard to get back up.

But if you mainly think positively about yourself, you will feel good most of the time. Research shows that positive self-talk can:

Tips to stop negative self-talk

There are many common ways people use negative self-talk. To break that cycle:

  • Be aware of what you’re saying to yourself (often it’s negative).
  • Ask yourself — is it true? (often it’s not).
  • Put your thoughts into perspective (so what?).
  • Then ask yourself — what is a more helpful thought?

It can take some time to recognise your negative thoughts — remember they have been part of you for a long time and it can take up to 3 months to change old habits.

Tips to improve positive self-talk

Practise thinking good things about yourself. Very simply, practise seeing half a glass as being half full, rather than half empty.

Identify your strengths as part of your self-talk, and accept compliments for what you achieved. A helpful way to improve positive self-talk is to look, think and act in a positive way.

Where to get help

If you find negative self-talk overwhelming, talk to your doctor about it. They may also give you a referral to a mental health professional who can work with you. You may be eligible for a mental health care plan.

There are also number of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) programs that may help. For more information contact:

  • SANE Australia (people living with a mental illness) — call 1800 18 7263
  • Beyond Blue (anyone feeling depressed or anxious) — call 1300 22 4636 or chat online
  • Black Dog Institute (people affected by mood disorders) — online help
  • Lifeline (anyone having a personal crisis) — call 13 11 14 or chat online
  • Suicide Call Back Service (anyone thinking about suicide) — call 1300 659 467

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019

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