“I’ll Be Happy When…” (It’s a Trap!)
How many times have you tried to make an improvement in your life, only to find that you’ve postponed feeling “accomplished” or “satisfied” until you achieve it? Haven’t we all done this to ourselves? I know I have. It’s that future-seeking “I’ll be happy when…” mindset.
We put our happiness on hold, until we lose the weight, get the promotion, or buy the bigger house…. and then, to make matters worse, we beat ourselves up for not being there already! When you add negative self-talk into the equation, it can actually take you further away from reaching your desired outcome and end up backfiring in very real physical ways!
Case in point: Have you heard about experiments on plants and photographs of water molecules after exposure to positive and negative words? Read on!
The Ice Crystal Experiments In the 1990s, Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto performed a series of experiments on water samples, using positive and negative reinforcement – yes, literally! – to see how the inanimate substance would respond. His findings, detailed in The Hidden Messages in Water (Atria Books, September 2005) were astonishing: when he surrounded water, even polluted water, with positivity, it froze into beautiful ice crystals, while water that was surrounded by negativity, however pure, froze without the elaborate crystal structures that lend one-of-a-kind beauty to snowflakes.
And it’s not just water; consider Danielle LaPorte’s “talk smack to apples” experiment that went viral a few years ago.
“Talk Smack to Apples” Danielle and her son took two halves of the same apple and sealed them in jars on their windowsill. One apple received lavish praise; the other was the brunt of hurtful teasing. Weeks later, the “positivity apple” was scarcely decomposed, while the “negativity apple” was a festering, nearly unrecognizable blob. They’ve since repeated the experiment, and the results were the same.
Writers at HuffPost and Goop have reported similar findings: positive reinforcement yields consistently positive long-term results!
Whether you believe these studies or not, there is no denying that words are powerful. And positive messaging makes thriving easier, not harder. You might be thinking, “If I say all these nice things when I have ‘slipped up’ or before I reach my goals, I might not be as motivated to improve myself.”
But here’s the thing: Compassionate and loving self-talk doesn’t have to dampen your desire for change. You can love where you are right now and continue moving along on your journey to a healthier, happier life.
So, the next time you find yourself spiraling into negative self-talk, think of Danielle’s apples or Masaru’s water samples, and try a few of my favorite ways to reinforce the positive instead.
Notice when and how you speak to yourself. For many of us, unkind self-talk is equivalent to a soundtrack: it’s background noise that we’re rarely without, and we’ve heard it so often that we don’t even notice it anymore. The first step to changing your self-talk is to become aware of the dialogue and acknowledge what you’re saying to yourself.
Speak to yourself the way you’d speak to a young child or dear friend. You would never call a friend “weak” for savoring a cookie or a child “bad” for clearing their plate – but you may use these words (and worse) to yourself. Try flipping the script and propping yourself up, instead of tearing yourself down:
“You’re doing your best!” or “I’m proud of you,” or “Way to make the best of a tough situation.”
Remember: you create your thoughts, and you can change them, too. As you take control of your self-talk, you turn off the mean or spiteful DJ that has been playing in your head and replace it with warm, encouraging thoughts. (After all, your mind is your station to program as you see fit!)
Take that literally as you work to shift your inner dialogue: every time you hear negative self-talk start up, urge yourself to literally stop and change the station to one playing your greatest hits. Imagine turning the knob on a radio or pulling the headphone jack out of your iPhone, then tune or plug into positivity – or blissful, judgment-less silence. Ahhhhhhh.
Shutting down negative self-talk is a really stubborn habit to reprogram. But just by taking the first steps, you’ll be deflecting negativity and redirecting positivity towards yourself. And if positive thinking can do wonders for a glass of water or half an apple, imagine what it can do for your incredibly resilient, active, amazing body.
What are your favorite ways to replace negative self-talk with positive self-love? Share them in the comments! Let’s inspire one other to speak kindly to ourselves.