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Helpful self-talk

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

How we talk to ourselves influences how we feel and behave, and subsequent thoughts about ourselves. Therefore, replacing unhelpful thoughts with more helpful or balanced thoughts is an important practice.

“How you talk to yourself, about yourself, is important.”

Step 1:

Develop an awareness of how you talk to yourself

Develop an awareness of the unhelpful thoughts you experience, and also how they impact how you feel and behave.

What unhelpful thoughts do you experience?

In what situations do they more frequently appear?

People may experience more unhelpful thoughts in performance or evaluative situations such as when speaking in front of an audience, playing sport, or in social situations.

Step 2:

Practice unhelpful thought stopping

When you notice an unhelpful thought, stop it in its tracks. Sometimes it is helpful to have a trigger word (e.g. stop) or action (e.g., shake head, click fingers, make a fist) which acts as a prompt to eliminate the negative thought and reaffirm your decision to not re-engage with it.

As we cannot stop ourselves from thinking, it is helpful to practice replacing unhelpful thoughts with more helpful or balanced ones.

Step 3: Reframe unhelpful thoughts

Reframe or replace unhelpful thoughts with more helpful thoughts.


Unhelpful thought: I am not good at this.

Reframe: I am new to this. The more I practice, the better I will be.

Unhelpful thought: If I don't score the goal, my friends will think I am bad at soccer.

Reframe: My friends are here to support me and enjoy the game. It's okay if I have an off day.

Tip: Plan ahead

It can be valuable to write a list of your most frequent unhelpful thoughts, along with a more helpful reframe. Thinking this through ahead of time may allow you to engage in the stop and replace process more quickly, and therefore reduce the negative consequences of unhelpful self-talk on how you feel or behave (i.e. sport performance during competition). The more you practice the process of engaging in helpful and balanced thoughts, the more automatic it will become.

Journal prompts

What unhelpful thoughts do I experience?

In what situations do I experience unhelpful self-talk?

How do my thoughts impact how I feel?

What are more helpful ways to think about the situation?

In an effort to be unbiased, what counter-evidence do I have to refute my unhelpful thoughts?

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