Soothing the Negative Inner Critic
If there was one thing you could change today, what would it be?
For me it would be my inner negative critical voice. It’s a voice that condemns, complains, criticises and castigates me into a downward spiral of depression, discouragement, despair and dullness.
I decide to post a positive or interesting meme every day to improve my mental health and to entertain and inspire others. But that isn’t the whole story. For years I have been battling my mind to try to hear my positive voice more often, the one that encourages me and uplifts my mood. There are a number of ways in which I’ve attempted to do this.
· Mantras. I wrote a mantra on a post-it note and stuck it to my mirror. Every time I saw it I breathed deeply, read the mantra and reinforced my belief in myself. Now the mantra is inside my head and I look at it whenever I need to.
· Acknowledgement. Every time I caught myself being critical or mean to me, I paused to recognise it was my inner negative critical voice and I acknowledged it. I said to myself “I hear that thought, I know it’s my inner critic, I can choose to believe it or not, I can choose to take these words to heart or not”. It was a full time job and it still plays a big part in how I manage my mind.
· Meditation. In my meditation my mind is released to wander freely. I can imagine my life without limits, without constraint. Not everything that is imagined can be borne in reality. But everything in reality can be changed in the imagination. I can see where I am and I can imagine where I want to be and that gives me something to hope for and work towards.
· Mindfulness. This is the practice of paying attention to things. Every day I find something that gives me joy and I revel in it for a moment. Sometimes it is the sound of the birds in the trees, some days it is hearing someone laugh, other days it might be looking at a beautiful picture or hearing a great song. I immerse myself in that experience, enjoy it in that moment and then carry on with the rest of my day. Later I might have another experience that I can luxuriate in.
· Praise. I reward myself for doing something positive, something that helps me work towards my goals. It might be after I’ve done some exercise, or when I’ve done the washing-up, or when I’ve caught myself being negative and I turn it into a neutral or positive thought. I tell myself “well done”, “good for you”, “that’s great”. When I forget to praise myself with words, I will most often reward myself with food. But that starts a spiral of comfort overeating which quickly turns into a negative. I’ve found that when I praise myself, it soothes my negative inner critic and I am spurred on to do more activities that have a positive outcome.
Which one of these actions can you take today to improve your mental health? Do you have any other suggestions on how to manage your negative inner critic?