Getting rid of negative self-talk and changing the way you view yourself isn't all that easy — we won't pretend it is. But switching over to positive thoughts, or positive self-talk, does not have to be daunting. Therapist Kati Morton, LMFT, told POPSUGAR that positive self-talk is simply making sure that the conversation always running through our heads has "a more supportive and compassionate voice."
Morton continued, "I think for a lot of people, talking positively to ourselves is difficult. If I've been thinking and talking to myself, saying that I'm lazy and stupid for years, then I can't all of a sudden just decide to think I'm productive and super smart because I'm not going to believe that drastic shift. I can say it, but I don't believe it. And I'm not a big believer in 'fake it 'til you make it.'" Faking it is not how positive self-talk works — it's not about giving yourself half-hearted pep talks in front of the mirror — and that's where bridge statements come in.
Using Bridge Statements to Promote Positive Self-Talk
Similarly to how some people may not feel comfortable being body positive and are more into body neutrality, bridge statements act as that middle ground. They are phrases that help us see that we could change our mindset if we wanted to. "Bridge statements live in possibility land," Morton explained.
Basically, instead of saying things like "I'm wonderful," "I'm productive," or "People love me," Morton noted that we can say "It's possible that I'm not as lazy or stupid as I think" and "I'm open to the thought that I might be wrong about that." Bridge statements can work for how you view yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally, and they can also work situationally, Morton added. For example, see how bridge statements would apply below if you were delving into a project.
Negative self-talk: "I'm never going to get this done" or "It's not going to go well."
Bridge statement toward positive self-talk: "It's possible that I could be good at this" or "I'm open to the idea that I could finish this in time."
Bridge statements as a concept is something Morton uses a great deal in her California private practice. In fact, even she said that though she doesn't have to use bridge statements in many areas of her life, two areas that she does struggle with are physical appearance and productivity. She typically needs to use bridge statements at least once a day for those areas.
This might go without saying, but negative self-talk can impact your mental health. "If we were talking to ourselves very negatively most of the time, that could have a really detrimental effect on our mood, our relationships, even just our motivation," Morton explained. "It can really just hold us down and hold us back."
How to Start Implementing Positive Self-Talk Throughout Your Day
Morton told POPSUGAR that our brains are wired to seek out threat and to look for negativity — this is related to our fight or flight response when we're stress. Shifting our brains away from that and flexing our positivity muscle is difficult, but it is possible. "I always tell my patients, 'Changing your thoughts to a more positive thinking can literally change your life,'" she said. Now that you know how positive self-talk works, here are ways you can start implementing this concept into your day-to-day routine.
- Pay attention to what you're saying to yourself. Notice what thoughts might be holding you back.
- Use bridge statements. Transitioning from bridge statements to positive self-talk is completely dependent on the person and how deep those negative beliefs run. It could take a few days, a few months, or years of work. For more information, check out a video Morton recorded about bridge statements for her YouTube channel, which has over 900,000 subscribers. (Note: you can help support her mental health videos by signing up for her Patreon membership that funds her work online.)
- If bridge statements are too hard at first, Morton suggests coming up with two or three things that you like about other people or the situations around you. This externalizes positivity and can sometimes be a little bit easier to follow through with.
- Another way to shift your brain into a more positive place without directly using bridge statements and trying positive self-talk right away is to write down positive affirmations or potential positive thoughts and put them in places you'll see every day. "That repetition can slowly change the way that our brains work," Morton said. "If it's hard for you to do it actively, that's a passive way to turn things around."