What can you accomplish in a month? According to science, that’s all it takes to start forming a new habit, and good habits lead to good results. That’s the goal behind our Monthly Challenge, to help you form the right habits – physically and mentally – to make significant strides toward your best, healthiest self.

“C’mon! You know better! Stop being an idiot! You must be worthless if you can’t do this!”

Imagine being told this by someone. How small would you feel? How hurt?

Problem is, most of us hear this type of language all the time, but not from others. From ourselves!

According to the National Science Foundation, the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative, and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

Think about that for a second. Four out of every five thoughts of self-talk you have every day from your inner voice do nothing but pull you down. It’s almost a constant stream of self-inflicted negativity from your inner voice. And when you think about it like that, your inner voice may be the biggest jerk you’ve ever met. Worse than that mother you can’t please, the overbearing coach and your micro-managing boss combined.

This leads us to the point that all that negativity only gets compounded when you throw in all the negativity from the outside world (family, the angry neighbor, the news, etc). No wonder depression continues to climb, affecting over 18 million adults (one in 10) in any given year, and is the leading cause of disability for ages 15-44.

So, what can you do? After all, it’s not like you can get rid of your inner voice.

Fortunately, while you may never be able to fully silence your inner voice, you can retrain it to be more positive, with significant quality-of-life outcomes.

Studies show those who manage positive self-talk have a more optimistic outlook, which can lead to:

  • increased vitality
  • greater life satisfaction
  • improved immune function
  • reduced pain
  • better cardiovascular health
  • better physical well-being
  • reduced risk for death
  • less stress and distress

So how do you do this retraining? By first identifying negative thinking. This type of thinking and self-talk generally falls into four categories:

  • Personalizing –You blame yourself for everything.
  • Magnifying – You focus on the negative aspects of a situation, ignoring any and all of the positive.
  • Catastrophizing – You expect the worst, and you rarely let logic or reason persuade you otherwise.
  • Polarizing – You see the world in black and white, or good and bad. There’s nothing in between and no middle ground for processing and categorizing life events.

When you begin to recognize your types of negative thinking, you can work to turn them into positive thinking. It’s just a matter of changing the focus. It’s going from “I’ll disappoint everyone if I don’t do this” to “I have the power to do what I want. Others will understand.” Or “I’m overweight and no one will like me if I don’t change” to “I am capable and strong, and I want to get healthier for me.”

Surrounding yourself with positivity only further improves your ability to retrain your inner voice, which brings us to this month’s challenge.

The challenge:

Write a truthful, positive reminder to yourself every day, be it a quote, word, or anything that improves the way you think and see yourself – over time, this leads to more confidence, motivation, and a better outlook on life.

Think about the last time someone gave you a compliment. How did it make you feel? Did it make you smile and have more energy? Did it change the outlook on your day?

More than likely, you answered yes to at least one of those things, if not all. So how about giving yourself a compliment to start every day?

Something as simple as taking a couple of seconds or minutes to tell yourself you’re beautiful, remind yourself how strong you are, compliment your own outfit, or look up a motivational quote can completely alter your entire day. It puts you in a positive mindset, and once in a positive mindset, you stand a much better chance of staying positive the rest of the day.

Now, does this mean looking for #MotivationMonday quotes on social media to start your day will keep you happy all day? Of course not (in fact, the last place you should go to help your positive outlook is social media). However, having that base to start means even if negative self-talk pops up throughout the day, you’ll have already trained yourself to combat it. A common therapy trick for those suffering from negative self-talk is that for every negative thought you identify, you need to immediately say three positive things about yourself.

That said, negative self-talk is not something you can magically fix overnight. It takes a lot of focused effort over a long period of time, and even then, you may not be able to do it alone. That’s where talking with a therapist can help you pinpoint sources of negative self-talk and help you learn to flip the switch.

However, you might be amazed at how just starting each day with a little positivity can make a massive impact on your life.