Positive self-talk for greater self-esteem & better health


Research is increasingly telling us that mood and attitude can be the difference between health and illness, even life and death. So, I’m going to tell you where negative attitudes originate and how to squash them with positive thinking…and maybe even increase your lifespan!

Your two brains

First premise: there are two different parts of your brain. There’s the conscious brain and the subconscious brain.

They’re not so much anatomically different. But they’re very functionally different.

Our brains are involved in conscious thought only about five percent of the time. Those are the clear-eyed assessments that tell us where we are, what’s happening around us, and what actions we should or shouldn’t take.

The other 95 percent of the time, your subconscious is busy playing back messages about life and your self—things that you absorbed before the age of six.

What’s important about those subconscious messages is that you had no choice whether to accept them or not. Your critical faculties—your ability to discern truth or falsehood—simply hadn’t developed yet.

And you were emotionally very, very vulnerable. You don’t often see kids older than six burst into tears at the slightest provocation, do you?

Everything leaves its mark

So when mom or dad startled you with “Don’t touch that! You’ll hurt yourself!” or any harsh-sounding admonishment, you got two messages. One was rational—you shouldn’t touch whatever that was. That’s useful.

The other was emotional, and costly—self doubt, as in “I’m so stupid.” When the message was one of praise, of course, it resulted in positive self-perception.

And the input isn’t just from family. TV shows and commercials when I was growing up showed women as homemakers. You made the fresh-smelling clean clothes happen, you used dishwashing soap that moisturized your hands, you put the dinner on the table…

Becoming something more? Forget it.

There’s increasing evidence that these early messages, endlessly repeating in our subconscious mind, have a profound effect throughout our lives. They can be the difference between an optimistic personality and a pessimistic one.

That alone can have extraordinary impact on your health—even to the point of altering your genes.

So what do we do with these remarkable insights?

Self-talk is the word of the hour—every hour

It sounds pretty “out there,” but it’s true.

You can talk yourself healthy and happy or unhealthy and unhappy.

Since the health dangers lurk in a negative self-esteem and negative worldview, let’s start our work by learning to self-talk our way out of that negativity.

Who are you?

First: assess yourself. Is your glass half full, but always refillable? Is it half empty, soon to be totally empty, forever?

I thank The Mayo Clinic for the following simple way to see yourself and your choices.

The emphasis here is choices—they’re yours and yours alone to make.


Negative self-talk

  • I’ve never done this before.
  • This is too complicated.
  • I don’t have what I need to do this.
  • I’m too lazy to get this done.
  • There’s no way it will work.
  • It’s too radical a change.
  • No one bothers to communicate with me.
  • I’m not going to get any better at this.

Do any of the negative feelings above sound familiar? Your subconscious brain is doing the talking here.

It’s simple to click your conscious brain into gear, to toss out your negative messaging and realize your real-life options. All it takes is practice and self-awareness.

Negative self-talk Positive thinking
I’ve never done this before. It’s an opportunity to learn something new.
This is too complicated. I’ll tackle it from a different angle.
I don’t have what I need to do this. Necessity is the mother of invention.
I’m too lazy to get this done. I wasn’t able to fit it into my schedule, but I can re-examine some priorities.
There’s no way it will work. I can try to make it work.
It’s too radical a change. Let’s take a chance.
No one bothers to communicate with me. I’ll see if I can open the channels of communication.
I’m not going to get any better at this. I’ll give it another try.

It’s easy to see stress lurking in this negative self-talk. This is hugely important. Because every day, our immune systems are bombarded with bacteria, viruses and other microbes that want to do us harm.

Research shows that when we’re positive and happy, our immune system deals with these threats quickly and effectively.

But when we’re chronically stressed and negative-minded, the immune system is also stressed and it doesn’t take long for an invading microbe to take hold and cause illness.

So using self-talk to help neutralize stress becomes an imperative.

And all the recent research points to at least these healthy outcomes:

  • Longer life
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

Get real and get better

At the end of the day, self-talk is really just about empowering and allowing yourself to see challenges from another perspective. When faced with a stressful situation, there’s no way you can be sure, for example, that “there’s no way this will work.”

That’s made-up BS that you’re making up yourself.

So talk yourself back to reality.

Like I always say, “There’s no way to know until you try.”

And not only can this change in thinking drive you towards greater success in all aspects of your life, it may actually extend it as well!



Last Updated: January 14, 2020
Originally Published: November 28, 2016