Hey there —
You’ve probably heard it said that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
But have you ever stopped to think about how you influence yourself? 🤔
We often emphasize how the people around us shape our attitude, outlook, and actions, but the way we think about (and talk to) ourselves is equally — if not more — impactful.
While our internal voice can help us plan, problem-solve, or even give ourselves a pep talk, it can also take a turn for the negative — becoming an incessant inner critic.
Psychologist and neuroscientist Ethan Cross calls this negative inner monologue “chatter.”
“We start criticizing ourselves and we get sucked into a loop of thinking how terrible we are [aka negative self-talk]. This is what I call chatter — the dark side of our inner voice. Chatter is a big problem. It undermines our performance at work, and it damages our social relationships and our health.”
And that damage can be significant: negative self-talk contributes to increased depression and prolongs our body’s stress response (which can even affect our DNA). 😲
Clearly, we would all do well to train our inner dialogue to be the Leslie Knope to our Anne Perkins (aka our biggest cheerleader, rather than our cruelest critic).
Now, this doesn’t mean turning to toxic positivity — glossing over or dismissing difficult emotions or problems in the name of self-love.
We should be self-aware, and there are times when we need to own our mistakes, work to improve our skills, or learn greater maturity.
But the key thing to remember is that shame is not the way to growth.
The moment the voice in your head (or any outside voice, for that matter) starts to tear down your worth or humanity, it’s no longer “tough love,” it’s destructive nonsense. 🙅
It’s not always easy — and, like many slow growth practices, it takes time and repetition — but we can learn to replace negative self-talk with healthy positivity.
Here are some strategies to help.
🤏 Start small. Jumping straight from negative to positive thinking can be difficult. Instead, try shifting from extreme negativity to neutral thinking. For example:
“I failed this test. I’m going to fail at everything.” → “It’s okay to feel disappointed, but I’m good at other things and can work to prevent this in the future.”
From there, you can build up to more positive affirmations of the things you do right, slowly creating a new way of thinking.
🤪 Try cognitive defusion. This practice helps you distance yourself from your negative thoughts, reducing their credibility and power through humor. Techniques include visualizing your thoughts in Comic Sans, singing your negative thoughts aloud, or giving your inner critic a name (like “The Itty Bitty 💩 Committee”).
☺️ Accept and absorb compliments. This one’s harder than it sounds, especially if your inner critic speaks louder than your fans. One helpful tip: ditch your automatic “Oh, it was nothing” response. Instead, say “thank you” and then use the compliment as information to help you identify, acknowledge, and celebrate the stuff you’re really great at.
🗣️ Change the way you address yourself. Cross’ research on distanced self-talk has shown that speaking to yourself in non-first-person language — using your name and/or “you”' rather than “I” — triggers a shift in your brain that helps you take a broader perspective and talk to yourself more kindly, like you would to a friend.
While you may not be able to control the first negative thought that pops into your head, you can work to take charge of the thought after that — and how you speak to yourself in the process.
So take a moment to tell yourself (and believe!) how awesome, worthy, and capable you are. 🥰
15-minute meditation for self-love
To further help you turn the tide in your mind and release those negative thoughts, check out this free guided meditation that focuses on sending love to your body and releasing any kind of self-judgment you’ve been carrying.
(Or, if 15 minutes feels overwhelming or meditation isn’t your thing, try 30-seconds of self-love affirmations from the folks over at Calm.)
The daily habits of happiness experts
by Angela Haupt
TIME surveyed 18 leading happiness experts about the meaning of happiness, whether happiness is a choice, if it can be bought, and what they do every day to find happiness in their own lives.
Their responses are enlightening and encouraging. 😊
Some major takeaways: constant happiness isn’t possible (or even desirable), happiness can be strengthened and taught, and happiness doesn’t mean ignoring life’s real problems.
Check out the article for some of the habits these experts say can boost your mood and wellbeing. (Spoiler alert: If you’re participating in this month’s Habit Challenge, you’re already working on one!)
by AllTrails, LLC
Speaking of this month’s Habit Challenge, the AllTrails website or app can help you find your next epic outdoor adventure (or low-key stroll).
Find local parks and trails for every outdoor activity, from walking and biking to camping and birdwatching. And the best part: they make it easy for everyone to find the perfect spot, with search options that sort trails by difficulty and highlight wheelchair-friendly paths.🧑🦽
Meet Nancy! She’s a freelancer, mom of three, avid reader, and community organizer. As a member of our Simple Habits course community, Nancy helps run an accountability group where she and her fellow Slow Pokes support each other in reaching their fitness goals. Today, Nancy’s sharing what’s helped her unlock those workout streaks, plus a unique prompt she uses to slow down when life feels rushed. 😅
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I’m Nancy, I’m a freelance publishing assistant for two hybrid presses, and I’m a mom of three. I live with my family in Northern California.
What are you most passionate about?
Organizing for change in our country. I’m a nascent community organizer in the areas of criminal justice reform and democracy protection.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned when it comes to building habits and/or pursuing goals?
Accountability is key! The Simple Habits course was great for holding myself accountable, but I learned from Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Four Tendencies, that I’m a person that really thrives on external accountability. My accountability group was small and mostly consisted of dropping “Done” or “✅” in our Discord, but it was enough to get me up at 5:30 AM (-ish, if I’m being honest) to start my workout.
What’s one thing you wish you knew 5 years ago?
Shifting my mindset from “One Day” to “Day One” is a powerful idea. I stare at that phrase every day now because I have it stuck to my desk at eye level.
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to your fellow self-development nerds?
If you can just take the first step, the rest will fall into place almost automatically. I fight my alarm clock but as soon as I put one foot out from under the blanket and put it on the floor, I know my alarm clock has won. Also, don’t turn it into an all or nothing proposition. There are times when I hit the snooze button too many times, cutting short the time I need to do a full workout, but I just get up and do what I can in the time I have left.
Would you rather go out for fine dining or order pizza and watch Netflix?
Fine dining, for sure. It’s a rare treat for me and I enjoy the whole experience. I think about my meal at Manresa (David Kinch) all the time — the intentionality of each dish, how everything on the plate had a purpose, was served with care, and how we had the space to truly enjoy the sensory experience of the meal. I try to recall that when I feel rushed and frantic in my work life and my home life, and apply that same approach.
Written by Ashley Martin
Edited by Matt D'Avella