Most people don’t talk to themselves out loud, but we talk to ourselves silently in our head all the time. It’s important that we recognize the voices as happening first and foremost, and second that we learn some strategies to get control around them. In other words, learn how to stop talking to yourself.
Whether we’re consciously aware of them or not, the voices in our head can either be a help or a hindrance. Self-talk is normal; however, negative self-talk will invariably turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. A chattering mind is messy and unmanageable, much like a messy room that prevents people from functioning at their best.
Some people call the source of our mind chatter “Monkey Brain.” Our mind begins to resemble a group of mindlessly, chattering monkeys who are making a lot of loud and meaningless noise.
A lot of this mind chatter is judgmental, filled with an abundance of “I can’t” or “I should.” Meditation can not only help silence this self-talk, but it can change the “I can’t” to “I can and I am.”
In many eastern countries, achieving inner peace turns into a lifelong endeavor. Buddhists have been practicing meditation for thousands of years as a means to heal the mind and the body. Today, this practice is accepted by western practitioners and medical researchers as having innumerable health benefits. Silencing that inner critic is a major benefit of meditation. When we meditate, we are in control rather than us being controlled by the “monkeys.”
How to Stop Talking to Yourself
We all have a critical voice with a burning need to point out all our shortcomings. Unfortunately, it is not a noisy family member whom we can leave at the end of the day. It is our own mind pointing the finger at us with a barrage of “you’re so stupid,” “you totally messed up,” “you will never get the job,” “you’re fat and boring.”
This voice is unpleasant. It’s mind chatter intended to drag you down, not build you up. Rare is the person who can silence it 24/7, but we can at least learn to recognize it for what it is, and make peace with it.
Because if left unchecked, this voice will eventually envelop us in anxiety and stress. We may be so afraid of attempting anything in the event of failure, we simply stop trying. We never move forward in life. Or we compensate to shut the voice out by overeating, drinking too much, spending our life on social media instead of being productive – anything to distract our thoughts.
Our lives shrink into something smaller and smaller as we withdraw into a world that attempts to lock out this annoying critic. If we don’t do anything, we can’t be blamed or judged.
If you want to know how to stop talking to yourself, you must first identify and confront the inner voice. Many of us have become so accustomed to the monkey chatter, we don’t even recognize it. But we are aware of feeling stressed and anxious.
One of the best-known tools to identify the inner voice is meditation.
Although medication has been practiced by Buddhist priests for thousands of years, there is nothing mysterious or even religious about it. Meditation is simply a mental practice that gives the individual great control over their thoughts – especially those inner voices that continuously fill the brain.
While mind chatter indicates an overabundance of out-of-control thoughts, we cannot simply wish those thoughts away. If we attempt to suppress them, they simply become more vocal and louder. Meditation helps us focus on our thoughts while we remain calm and non-judgmental.
Calming the mind through meditation allows us to recognize thoughts (the voices) popping into our head beyond our control. With enough practice, we can begin to see those thoughts as clouds passing through the sky of our mind. They are passing voices. While we created them, they are not who we are at our core.
Mindful meditation is one of the most popular meditative practices. During mindful meditation, the meditator focuses on breathing or a specific short phrase frequently referred to as a mantra. By consciously directing one’s focus, we eliminate distractions and reduce the mind chatter as the meditation keeps the mind from wandering. The longer we practice mindful medication, the clearer our mind becomes. The brain is a muscle, and the more we strengthen it, the better it functions for us.
1. Get Comfortable
When we focus on our breathing, we become mentally anchored to the present. Our mind does not wander, judge, or criticize. It lets us be in the moment. The more our brain is used to “monkeying around,” the longer it will take to see the benefits of meditation. But the benefits make this effort worthwhile. The great news is that everyone can meditate and enjoy the effects of greater calm and mental tranquility.
Wear comfortable clothing (nothing wrong with wearing pajamas or sweats) and make sure the room is not too cold or too hot. Removing jewelry is a good idea. You want minimal distractions while meditating.
It’s important to note that while you want to become comfortable, you don’t want to become too comfortable. You want to be relaxed yet awake. You don’t want to become so comfortable that you become sleepy.
Once you are dressed comfortably, find a comfortable place to sit. The lotus position is a classic meditation pose, but it is not the only one. You can meditate while sitting in a chair (sitting at your desk at work allows you to get in a few minutes of meditation when you need extra calm and focus during the day – it’s the secret of many stressed-out workers). While sitting, keep your feet on the floor and your hands folded on top of your legs. For your lower back, you can use a pillow – anything that will let you sit comfortably for a length of time.
2. Relax Body and Mind
Relaxing your body and mind amid clutter dilutes the effectiveness of meditation. Keep your space neat and tidy. You want the calm around you to reflect the calm in your mind.
Consciously relax the muscles in your body. Stretch, flex, and release as much tension as possible.
3. Find a Focus
Your essential focus will be on inhaling and exhaling and paying attention to your breathing and enhancing the benefits with a personal mantra. This can involve repeating the traditional meditative “om” sound, or you can repeat calming words and phrases such as “relax,” “I am relaxed,” or “I am calm.” These affirmations will deepen your sense of focus.
You can meditate with your eyes closed or by concentrating on an object in front of you.
4. Add Some Music… Maybe
Experts are at odds with whether music can help with the practice of meditation. For some, music can help. It gives their mind something to focus on, much like some people focus on their breath, or counting from 1 to 10 and starting over again. I prefer focusing on my breath, but to each their own.
Keep in mind that the type of music matters. Something loud and booming is likely to be distracting. Instead, opt for a soothing tune that has a nice, steady rhythm. Many meditators enjoy the calming mental effect of soft music. Make sure it is playing at a low and soothing volume. I would also avoid anything with vocals or lyrics. You want the sound, not a story.
5. Breathe Consciously
Inhale deeply and slowly into your diaphragm. You should feel the breath down in your navel. This helps you relax and let go of stress.
Keep your mind as empty as possible while meditating. Take a step back from life and suspend judgment. Simply observe what is happening in your mind. Notice the silence as the monkeys are quieted.
Chances are, despite your efforts to remain in focus, your mind will wander. Anyone new to meditating is often surprised at exactly how much they’re talking to themselves and how difficult it is to quiet those voices. This is perfectly normal. Don’t judge. Don’t criticize. Simply pull your focus back to your breathing.
Again, the mind voices are clouds in the sky, coming and going. Watch them come and go. They are not you, you are not them.
6. Practice Regularly
Meditation works best if you are firmly committed to the practice. It should become a daily habit and a part of your daily schedule. Meditating up to 30 minutes a day is great. However, Neuroscientist Amishi Jha of the University of Miami has determined that just 12 minutes a day is beneficial and can increase a person’s ability to focus and clear the mind of mindless chatter.
The point is making it a habit, training the mind. Do something consistently for long enough and eventually it becomes a daily routine or habit. This is what begins to force changes in the mind. With enough practice, you will begin to recognize the voices in your head even when you are not meditating. This is how you can begin to silence the voices. This is how to stop talking to yourself.
Self-Talk And Affirmations
Mind chatter is often negative. Criticism is lurking within each thought. You want to help reduce the encouragement of negative thoughts by standing guard at the door of your mind. Protect it from negative inputs. Encourage positive inputs.
A simple way to turn negative thoughts into positive ones is to focus on positive self-talk. As long as people talk to themselves, why not make those thoughts into something beneficial and self-esteem-building?
How Positive Affirmations Work
While you want to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts, there are people for whom too many positive thoughts are in the end creating a negative outcome. Think, for example, of the person who has an inflated view of themself, the person whose ego is large. Their “positive affirmations” come at the cost of being humble.
For everyone else, the negativity of mind chatter holds us back from much that we could accomplish. It undermines our self-esteem. Positive affirmation is “back talk” to all this negativity. These affirmations can turn negative thoughts into positive thinking and action. This can be life-changing.
Our thoughts are stored in our subconscious brain forever. Once they catch root, we actually believe the voices that keep insisting, “you’re fat,” “you’re hopeless,” or “you can’t do anything.” The great news is that these can be replaced by positive thoughts called affirmations. Your thinking and behavior will change remarkably as a consequence.
For anyone thinking that these thoughts are artificial and fake, consider the following: how real are your fat, hopeless, can’t-do thoughts? These are nothing but the result of years of input, often started in childhood. If these thoughts can become real, they can be overturned with positive thoughts. It depends on constant repetition (Step 6 above).
Negative mind chatter didn’t begin with one negative thought. It is the accumulation of many negative thoughts. Positive affirmations merely override that programming. Here are some examples:
- I am more than my thoughts.
- These feelings will soon improve
- I make my happiness my priority
- I can change my thinking
- I am powerful
- I deserve to be happy
- I deserve to be loved
- I am in control of my life
- I am not perfect, and I don’t have to be
- The past is over and does not affect me
- I can do anything I want to
- I choose to be positive at all times
- I am more than my negative thoughts
- Negative feelings are temporary
- My life is whatever I make it
Repeat these thoughts to yourself when you get up in the morning and throughout the day, especially if you feel the onset of anxiety. Understanding that you can change your thinking is a powerful feeling that can release you from the bonds of negativity.
Consider your brain a computer. A computer depends on the data that is stored within. According to cognitive psychology, the brain, like a computer, takes in and stores information. If you are using old, outdated, or false data, your brain cannot provide you with the correct output. Conducting positive affirmations is the equivalent of updating your brain and providing it with new information.
Begin by becoming aware of your thoughts. Many people are so accustomed to feeling anxious, they remain unaware of the endless mind chatter. Then understand that the mind chatter is affecting your life and holding you back.
A journal can be helpful in nailing down specific chatter and how it relates to your life. Meditation helps you acknowledge and observe your thoughts without judgment.
When practiced regularly, meditation can change the brain’s responses to stress and anxiety and slowly change your relationship with the voices in your head. You can stop the mind chatter through your own power and thereby change your life.