How to Stop Our Negative Self-Talk: 15 Practices

Jul 10, 2023 4 Min Read

Many of us struggle with negative self-talk—an inner critic that savagely sabotages us with doubts and harsh judgments. We’re our own worst enemy.

We think we’re struggling with the outer game but it’s actually the inner game that’s tripping us up.

Happiness is an inside game, literally and neurochemically.” -Shirzad Chamine, executive and best-selling author

How to Stop Our Negative Self-Talk

There are many things we can do to hush the inner critic in our head.

1.Doing breath work: breathing deeply and intentionally (as in yoga, meditation, and “box breathing”). This will change our physical and mental state.

Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.” - Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Mindfulness

2. Noticing our thoughts more: observing the things that pop into our heads and spotting the negative patterns that reappear. It helps to label them (e.g., “I’m being overly critical again”) and let them go.

3. Practicing self-compassion: treating ourselves with understanding and warmth in difficult times and recognizing that we all make mistakes. With self-compassion, we can give ourselves grace, forgive ourselves, and move on.

4. Being curious about or fascinated with the issue we’re concerned about—a more positive frame.

5. Remaining open to new possibilities and alternate interpretations that don’t involve harsh self-judgment.

6. Focusing on what we can control, and not worrying about the rest. (Consider reciting the “serenity prayer.”)

7. Avoiding the trap of catastrophizing (assuming the worst or exaggerating our flaws).

8. Changing our context to bring a different perspective and renewed energy.

9. Asking questions to understand why we’re feeling a certain way and how things might be changed.

10. Replacing our inner critique with a more charitable and helpful narrative.

11. Cognitive reframing: shifting our mindset to look at a situation or relationship from a different and more helpful perspective, such as redefining a problem as a challenge or a puzzle or mystery that we can solve.

12. Playing and having fun. (Play often changes our physiology by moving us into a state of deep engagement or flow.)

13. Taking action. This naturally interrupts our negative self-talk and rumination and focuses us on our context and next move.

14. Choosing what to think and be mindful about. Many people become victims of the thought-stream in their minds instead of engaging their “observer” or “witness consciousness” to observe their thoughts and let them go.

What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.” -Eckhart Tolle, German spiritual teacher and author

15. Changing the channel on negative thoughts. Sometimes it helps to use a pattern interruption technique like swiping our hand to the side, symbolically signaling that we’re dismissing our negative self-talk

Our life is what our thoughts make it.” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

This article was also published on Gregg Vanourek's LinkedIn.

This article is also available in Chinese.

Edited by: Irfan Razali

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Gregg Vanourek is an executive, changemaker, and award-winning author who trains, teaches, and speaks on leadership, entrepreneurship, and life and work design. He runs Gregg Vanourek LLC, a training venture focused on leading self, leading others, and leading change. Gregg is co-author of three books, including Triple Crown Leadership (a winner of the International Book Awards) and LIFE Entrepreneurs (a manifesto for integrating our life and work with purpose and passion).


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