How to engage in positive self-talk

Talking back to yourself (also known as positive self-talk) is a way to change your thoughts to be more positive, hopeful and optimistic, even when it seems impossible to do because you are going through such a tough time. It can also help with feelings of sadness, anger, pain, anxiety and frustration.

How do I do it?

  • In your mind, tell yourself positive things about what has happened, is currently happening or will happen in the future.
  • Make positive statements about yourself to yourself.
  • Catch yourself when you are thinking negative thoughts and STOP. (It may help to think of a big stop sign whenever you catch yourself thinking negatively.)
  • Tell yourself that something good will happen or that things will go well. If you think it, it is more likely to happen.
  • You are your best cheerleader. Some things you can say to yourself are:

“I can do this. I’ve been through harder things than this!”

“I am refreshed, energized and ready to go!”

“I can shrink my pain. I can turn down the volume on my pain.”

“I can relax. I can feel good.”

“I will be OK.”


  • Photographs of people, quotes or other things that inspire you can help you think of positive things to say to yourself and to feel more hopeful.
  • Someone who is very positive or who you like to be around can help you think more positively.
  • You may want to use a notebook or journal to write down your favorite quotes or the positive thoughts that work best for you. It may help to think about what negative thoughts pop into your head most often, then write down the opposite thought. Focus on that positive thought and practice saying it to yourself.

How can this help me?

Have you ever found yourself thinking things are going to go badly? Because you have already decided things aren’t going to work out, you may actually behave in ways that make it more likely the situation will turn out poorly. These negative or pessimistic thoughts can make you feel tense, nervous and upset. They may even cause you to not try your best. When this happens and it’s your time to do your thing, it’s hard for your body to make things go well. When we are tense, stressed, upset or expecting bad things to happen, we feel pain more strongly and can feel sicker.

Your brain listens to your body and your body listens to your brain. We know if you think about something, you can make your body do it – like kicking a ball or doing homework. During positive self-talk, you tell your mind to think positively. Because focusing on positive things and the feeling of hopefulness that good things will happen, you can also increase the likelihood that positive things will happen. You will also feel better when doing this. This works even if you are not sure you believe it.