How Positive Self-Talk Reduces Stress

Blues Perspectives

| 4 min read

The average person has 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day, and you might be surprised at what percentage of those thoughts, on average, are negative. In this episode of the A Healthier Michigan podcast, Chuck Gaidica is joined by Dr. Kristyn Gregory, Medical Director of Behavioral Health for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, discussing positive self-talk. It’s linked to reducing stress and improving resilience.

How Our Physical & Mental Connection is Tied to Stress

According to the National Science Foundation, up to 80% of your daily thoughts can be negative. Negativity biasis a term that references how negative thoughts often carry more weight in our minds than positive ones. Thinking negative thoughts is a bad habit that can be hard to break, according to a 2008 report from Princeton University.
Negative self-talk may lead to decreased motivation and feelings of helplessness. In the episode, Dr.Gregory and Gaidica explore if it is possible to affect your outlook by actively inserting positive self-talk into your life. For example, instead of saying, “I can't finish this before the deadline,” or “I can't get my computer to work to do this podcast,” you might think something like, “I'll do my best to finish on time, but I can only do the best I can,” or, “I've figured out how to work this before, and I can again.”
Is this just us fooling ourselves into being positive, or does this affect our body, stress, or mood? Dr. Gregory said researchers are trying to continue to explore the effects of positive thinking on optimism, but health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
  • Longer lifespan
  • Decreased depression
  • Decreased levels of distress and pain
  • Greater resistance to illness overall
  • Greater resistance to cancer
  • Greater resistance to respiratory infections
  • Better coping skills during hardship and times of stress

How to Incorporate Positive Self-Talk into Your Daily Life

Habits take, on average, 66 days to build and enact, according to a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology. Self-talk requires practice and commitment, especially if you are used to being negative toward yourself.
You can try to reframe thoughts, and how you look at or approach stressful situations or difficulties, and how you can approach them. Changing from "this is too difficult" to "I can do this," seems like it should be a one step process, but it's not that simple. If it's a new or complex task, try positively talking yourself through it. You can actively give yourself positive self-talk out loud when you have a moment alone, maybe during your commute or lunch break.
Dr. Gregory suggests, “You can even consider writing a note or texting yourself, ‘Hey, I know that today's a hard day, but I know that you can do this. You have this, you've done it before.’”

Why Positive Self-Talk Can Be Challenging

You may feel strange giving yourself these positive remarks or pep talks, especially out loud, and this can be an obstacle for some people. Remember that the habit of positive thinking takes as much time and effort as any other habit to form, and that you are building a foundation for personal resilience to the stressors in your life.

Long-Term Effects and Goals of Positive Self-Talk

Building self-esteem, self-image, and confidence in your ability to handle difficulties can make you more resilient to stress, according to Dr. Gregory. Positive self-talk can help you remain confident in yourself, your coping skills, and your abilities. Dr. Gregory likened teaching yourself effective positive self-talk to building muscle memory.
“In stressful situations or situations of adversity, you have the muscle memory, which in this case would be coping skills, to successfully navigate through the situation,” Dr. Gregory said. “You've told yourself that you are fully capable of doing that and navigating through these trials and tribulations as well.”
Listen to the podcast, How Positive Self-Talk Reduces Stress, to hear the entire conversation. A Healthier Michigan Podcast is brought to you by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. 
To hear more episodes on your smartphone or tablet, subscribe on Apple Podcast or Spotify or your favorite podcast app. 
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MI Blues Perspectives is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association