Most of us are familiar with that negative voice in our head: The one that tells us we aren’t good enough, that we should stop trying, that we aren’t worthy. But just because that voice exists doesn’t mean we are stuck with it, and there are a number of ways to stop negative talk in your head that are surprisingly effective. Self-confidence, positivity, and mental clarity can be cultivated — even if it’s difficult — and utilizing these tricks can help ensure that we don’t actually listen to that pesky person inside our head telling us we can’t accomplish what we want.
“It’s important to get the negative voice out of your head because, if it’s strong enough, it has the power to [overcome you] — your meeting, your day, your relationships, your life,” psychologist Deborah E. Dyer, Ph.D. tells Bustle. “Most of us are our own worst critics. Shutting down the negative voice allows your confidence, self-esteem, and energy to flow and to be powerful, not powerless.”
We can’t always make that pessimistic voice disappear completely, but we can overcome it and not allow us to drive our actions.
Here are seven effective hacks for getting that negative voice out of your head:
1. Acknowledge The Thought
Rather than try to push the thought of your head, acknowledge that it has arisen. “Most of us just allow it to happen and take if for truth without bothering to believe we have the power to change it,” says Dyer. “Write it down when you hear the negative voice. This way you can document the occurrences and get a more clear understanding of what you’re saying to yourself and how you’re feeling as a result.”
2. Use The “Double Standard Method”
More often than not, we are a lot harder on ourselves than we are with other people. So next time the negative voice crops up, try treating yourself with the same courtesy that you would a friend. “Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend,” says Dyer. “Most of us judge ourselves very harshly, but are more compassionate toward others dealing with the same issue. Remember you are important enough to deserve your own compassion.”
3. Try Thought Stopping
Dyer teaches her patients a quick three step method: “[First], say (or yell) in your own mind ‘STOP!’ immediately when you notice the voice,” she says. “[Second], Take 3 deep abdominal breaths. [Third], envision a quiet, calm, beautiful and strengthening image that you have created already as a go to focal point. Keep breathing. Repeat if necessary.”
4. Combat With Positive Affirmations
Paying attention to being kinder and gentler to yourself is more powerful than most of us think. “Replacing the negative voice (and cognitive distortions) with positive affirmations and statements of self-efficacy really is effective,” says Dyer. “Find or create positive self-statements that reflect strength, confidence, accomplishments, and personal rights. By challenging the negative and creating positive emotional strength, you increase both your mood and your self-respect.”
5. Sing The Thought
Create a bit of distance from a negative thought by singing the negative thought out loud or using a weird voice effect. “When you sing a distressing thought, it sounds silly, and you begin to distance from your emotional reaction to the thought,” clinical psychologist Jennifer Sweeton, M.A. tells Bustle. “What people find is that over time, they habituate to this thought, and it no longer carries the strong emotional impact it used to.”
6. Name Your Negative Voice
Give your negative voice a name. “I call mine ‘Fred,’ and tell her that she can come along for the ride, but she can’t drive the car,” positive psychologist Maria Sirois, tells Bustle. “Back seat only. Negativity such as fear, worry, anger, self-criticism may be a part of our mindset but they don’t have to be the part that decides where we are to go and what we are to do when we get there. ‘Fred’ is often along for the ride, but I clearly tell her that she is only allowed to be with me, as I find my way listening to other voices.”
7. Immediately Pair The Negative Thought With A Positive “And”
When you have a negative thought, immediately pair it with a positive “and.” For example, “I completely messed that conversation up and I am worthy anyway.” Or, “I hate this job and I have the strengths to figure out how to create a new path.” “Pairing a negative with a positive ending does two important things to our brain,” says Sirois. “First, it reminds us that we are in control of our thinking and we can shape our day by shaping our thinking. Second, we begin to trigger, more often those neurons that elevate optimism, positive self-regard, and creativity.”
8. Share Your Thoughts With Someone
When that negative voice is running rampant, it can lead us to make bad decisions. Instead, call a friend you can trust and ask if you can borrow their clear mind for a time. “Their suggestions may not be the perfect ones, but in hearing other ways of thinking, [you are] freed up to see novel choices,” says Sioris. “And, [you] remind yourself that negative thoughts can exist, but they don’t have to be the deciders in any one moment.”
We all suffer from that cruel, negative voice from time to time, but try using these tricks to banish those thoughts as much as possible.