But maybe Marcel Marceau is the lucky one with comical inner thoughts, while the rest of us are left dealing with reality, often with accompanying negative self-talk.
Negative self-talk is bad. It can worsen our mood, causing more depression and anxiety. It decreases self-confidence, making it harder for us to perform. This is why athletes try to build themselves up. As boxing champion, Mohammed Ali would say, ‘I am the greatest’, not ‘I’m champ because I got a lucky punch in.’
David Snowden at the University of Kentucky led a research study on aging known as the Nun Study. They followed 678 nuns over time. By choosing nuns to study, they eliminated lifestyle variables such as diet, living conditions, not smoking/drinking etc., as they were all almost identical. They reviewed their life journals that they started writing in the 1930’s at the age of roughly 20. Use of key positive words in the journals showed that some had much more positive thoughts. They found that:
- The nuns with positive thoughts had a roughly 10 year longer lifespan on average. TEN YEARS…that is huge.
- The nuns with positive thoughts had no Alzheimer’s. The negative thinking nuns had a significant incidence of Alzheimer’s.
- Almost all of the nuns are now deceased. They did autopsies and they did find that one nun with positive thoughts had significant Alzheimer’s disease in her brain. However, that nun showed no signs of Alzheimer’s dementia while alive.
Clearly the ones with positive thoughts have healthier bodies and healthier brains. Like the healthier nuns, we need to get ‘into the habit’ of positive self-talk.
Positive self-talk will be key to recovery if you are battling depression or anxiety. Positive self-talk is also helpful if you are having stress in your life (which is all of us have really as life is inherently stressful).
Positive self-talk can be fostered and increased. Here are some of the ways:
- Strengthening your faith
- Building supportive relationships
- Cultivating gratitude
- Seeking laughter
- Prayer and meditation
- Considering situations from a different perspective (i.e. how will things be in 1, 5, 10, 100 years?)
- Finding a positive purpose to your life
- Exercise (to burn off inner anxieties, stress, and negative thoughts)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychological therapy which has been shown to be very effective in treating problems such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. CBT has been shown in studies to be as effective as antidepressant medications. The combination of CBT with antidepressants is even more powerful. Similarly, a combination of all of the above ideas is the best way to keep positive.
CBT relies on your thoughts, behaviors or actions, and emotions all being interrelated. You can improve your emotions (such as decreasing depression and anxiety) by altering your thoughts and behaviors. In other words, a positive activity or thought can improve your mood.
Now I have heard some doctors say that CBT and faith are not really compatible. The reasoning was that faith relies on the spiritual belief while CBT relies on western scientific deduction. They felt CBT was what people should turn to when faith was not working to solve the problem.
Actually, CBT can be used with faith to build the strongest emotional support. Borrowing on reasoning from St. Augustine, CBT fits in quite nicely with God’s plan. Augustine asserted that God exists as a Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God also created man in His own image, and so our essence can be broken down into 3 parts which can be viewed in different ways:
- Consciousness of self, knowledge, love
- Memory, understanding, and will
- Our soul seeks eternity, truth, and love
- We exist, we know we exist, and we are glad for that
Similarly, we can be thought of as:
- Behaviors, thoughts, and emotions, which is the basis of CBT. So Augustine would argue that CBT is based in God’s plan and design for us. If we add thoughts of God into that mix, it will obviously be much more powerful.
Next time we’ll look more at how we can use CBT in conjunction with faith to overcome negative thoughts and emotions.
Betsy saysMay 18, 2016 at 12:53 am
“Be careful of your thought, because your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your character and your character is YOU!” Great blog James! Thanks for reminding me.
Dr. James Abshire saysJune 5, 2016 at 11:42 pm
Hope you, Mike & Tony are having fun in San Francisco.
Shannen saysMay 18, 2016 at 9:30 am
This really hit home. I’m usually a positive, up beat person….but life has found a couple of road blocks. Most will change for the better, others we live for today, which is wonderful.
Talking more to my self, with positive attitude will definitely help to find my inner positive self. This reminder and advice is great. Many thanks you 🙂
Dr. James Abshire saysJune 5, 2016 at 11:41 pm
Glad to see someone is reading my blogs.
It was great seeing you. Hoped to see you soon.
Trish Lawver saysMay 19, 2016 at 12:29 am
We seem to be our own worst critics! Just follow any golfer around, on the course, and listen to their self talk!!
Dr. James Abshire saysJune 5, 2016 at 11:39 pm
I so agree!