health

"My trick for combating negative self-talk lives in my handbag."

Carla GS, practicing what she preaches. Source: Supplied.

“I really hate her. Why did she go behind my back like that?”

That’s what I was thinking as I scrubbed at a saucepan last night. Every night, as I do the dishes, negative thoughts appear. It sounds like I’d just had an argument, but actually, I was reflecting on a workplace incident that had happened two years ago.

Related: “I love my best friend, but I don’t love the way she acts around my partner.”

When my mind has a chance to wander, it often goes back to those times when I felt bad about myself – when I felt betrayed, unconfident, sad or angry.

I’ve finally found a way to banish these thoughts, and guess what – it fits into my pocket. My little trick is simple: I listen to podcasts, to occupy my mind and fill it with interesting and new things, rather than the old things that pissed me off. (Post continues after gallery.)

For some of us, the inner workings of our minds can have a big impact on our daily moods and actions. It’s called “self-talk”, and you can have positive and negative self-talk. Reach Out describes self-talk as “basically your inner voice… a subtle running commentary going on in the background of your mind”.

Negative self-talk can make you feel bad about yourself, and have a gloomy effect on your mood. An example of negative self-talk could be as innocuous as, “My hair looks bad,” to something more destructive, like, “No-one likes me because I’m boring”.

Related: Does a history of mental illness affect your risk of postnatal depression? 

Dr Suzy Green, clinical and coaching psychologist, and the founder of The Positivity Institute, calls negative thoughts “ANTs” – that is, Automatic Negative Thoughts. Of these, she says:

“If you find yourself in a pattern of negative thinking for a long period of time, that’s a real worry, because you won’t feel good in yourself.”

As you can see, I really like listening to podcasts and taking selfies at the same time.

Changing the way that we think is a very difficult thing to do. In my experience, this is largely because many of my thoughts are automatic and unchecked. As I wrote in my story about the Happiness Detox, I didn’t notice how many negative thoughts I had until I made an active effort to change them.

There are various techniques for changing your thoughts, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. This is something which requires a lot of hard work, over a long period of time, and often the helping hand of a psychologist.

Related: “I saw a psychologist but I’m not crazy.” 

For me, something that’s worked in the short-term is plugging in my earphones, and listening to a podcast. I do this during the long periods of time that my mind is idle, such as when I’m on public transport, walking my daughter in her stroller, or doing the dishes.

For you, it doesn’t have to be a podcast – it can be the radio, music, or even the TV on in the background.

You can even listen to podcasts while you exercise.

I feel like a super, multi-tasking brain machine when I listen to podcasts. Not only am I stopping the ANTs, I’m also learning about new things. During and after my podcast session, I think about the interesting stories I’ve listened to, and the intriguing people who have spoken.

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Also, this will sound super dorky, but listening to podcasts also helps me to talk to people (I’m secretly introverted), because I always want to share the stories I’ve heard. You can even listen to podcasts which are specifically about improving your mental health.

Related: "My wedding day decision divided everyone, but I did it anyway. And I don't regret it."

So, what podcasts do I listen to? The Moth has been a longtime favourite of mine. The Moth is a live storytelling event in New York and other US cities, and the podcast features stories from all sorts of people.

I listened to one recently from a formerly homeless pickpocketer, and it was hilarious. Even Molly Ringwald has told a story at The Moth (it was about her daughter). (Post continues after gallery.)

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The Osher Gunsberg Podcast is always an uplifting and inspirational listen, and Mystery Show is a whimsical, heartfelt podcast recommended by my sister.

Two weirdos that I know (okay, my husband and me) have a podcast called Planet Donut, which is just us chatting about goofy things.

No podcast list would be complete without This American Life, and obviously, I am crazy about the Mamamia Women’s Network podcasts: Mamamia Outloud, This Glorious Mess, No Filter, Just Between Us and I Don’t Know How She Does It.

See? Writing this has already taken my mind off stuff! If ANTs and negative self-talk are a problem for you, then consider plugging into a podcast, or just using your quiet times with intention. It works for me. And who knows, you may even learn something.

Do you have any tricks to deal with negative self-talk? Or, do you have a great podcast recommendation? Tell us in the comments!

Related: Why Osher Gunsberg chants while he’s running. 

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