5 Ways to Overcome Negative Self-Talk and Turn It Into Joy

(Overcoming negative self-talk can be hard, but you can transform it into positive thinking. Here are some alternatives to negative self-talk.)

Often I have Normal-Brain with normal thoughts enjoying a normal day. But then there’s Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain. She shows up unannounced, uninvited, and always overstays her welcome.

Let me tell you how Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain thinks:

Enter any difficult situation with my child and Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain reminds me of how ill-equipped I am at parenting. She confirms my child will never come home for Christmas in adulthood. He’s ruined. Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain also points out all the other moms and their kids who have it together better than us. I only need to open Instagram to see the pictures.

She reminds me of commitments but only after it’s too late. (As I’m dropping my 11-year-old son off at school, “Why is your crossing guard partner out this morning? Oh wait, you’re supposed to be out there too!”) Then berates me for forgetting and reminds me how simple it is to actually use the calendar on my phone.

She nudges me to fly off the handle – and so I do – then instantly cues guilt. Awesome.

Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain reminds me I’m not “in the know.” My friend, whose kid is brilliant at chess? She’s got it going on. Because the future’s in chess. My kids won’t be smart because I’m not signing them up for the right activities. Checkmate. I lost.

Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain reminds me I can’t do everything, but in a mean way. I’m at a friend’s home who’s gifted at maintaining a spotless space. Always. And she HAS kids. And she works full-time. I won’t feel jealous…I won’t feel jealous…then here it comes…jealousy.

Or I put on jeans that fit a year ago and I can’t button them. Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain is unkind.  She urges me to give up my lattes. (Slow motion: Nooooo!) She criticizes me for not exercising more and eating better. Then, ten minutes later she tells me it’s okay to steal Halloween candy from my kids’ bags. (Pick a lane, woman.)

Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain comes for everyone; life is tricky and weird and does that to us. But, I don’t know that all hope is lost.

Maybe – just maybe – we can make Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain work FOR US instead of AGAINST US.

overcoming negative self-talk

When thoughts dish out negative, we can remind ourselves there’s another voice waiting to speak positive. We can see it as an invitation – a guilt-free, I-clearly-need-a-moment-for-me-because-of-all-this-negativity invitation – to create space to hear the encouraging voice.

We let God nudge our heart: My dear child, let’s spend time together. Let’s visit what’s bothering you. Let me remind you how big and sovereign, yet intimately intentional I am in your life. Know how loved, loved, loved you are. I created you with purpose; your unique contributions to this world are irreplaceable. I will use them to share my hope. Can I remind you I’m always here, walking before you, behind you, and beside you?

And then without guilt, we can accept this invitation. We can pause hectic life and do something soul-filling, reconnecting us to our Creator. Whatever that looks like to you. For me, lately, it’s been still moments before the Lord, walks around the scenic lake (with my beloved dog), or inspirational books and scripture.

In these refueling moments, I do my best to be fully present and let God’s truths sink in. As I focus on our Creator, I refocus on the important things – which are not my pants size or punctuality. (The lattes, on the other hand…)

But what about you? How do you connect with our Creator and find peace? How do you conquer your negative self-talk? I love it when people share real, tangible ideas, so here are five ideas that help me reset my brain in overcoming negative thinking.

But, before I dip into them, know that sometimes I just sit with my negative thinking and agree that the situation stinks and watch Netflix until I’m ready to move past. Pain is a tricky thing to deal with. However, I know I don’t ever what my negative thinking to win, so I very often try one of the below to help push past…

1. Deep breathing while listening to inspirational music:

Sit with your palms facing up (open towards the heavens) ready for God to shower his peace down on you. Take 5 breaths in, hold for a second and exhale for 5 more seconds. Then listen to the words of the music and let the truths wash over you. As the melody plays, close your eyes, relax your body, and breathe slowly.

Start with It is Well (Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Music) and in under 5 minutes, you’ll start to feel the worship wash away your negative self-talk and replace it with joy.

2. Claim a verse and make the main point your day’s mantra:

I deeply believe that God is continually transforming us – even in the pain…actually, especially through pain. God can redeem all things. Our beautiful, beautiful God is a God of restoration. So we can replace the negative self-talk with God’s words until we find ourselves rejoicing over all God is doing around us. Look at  Romans 8:38:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

We can use the below steps to replace our negative thought with Romans 8:38:

1. Before you start your day: Read Romans 8:38 and say a prayer thanking God for working all things for good. (Then set your phone alarm for lunchtime to remind you to come back to this verse.)

2. In the Morning: Every time you hear yourself say something negative repeat the main point of the verse (your mantra): God is working all things for good. 

3. Lunchtime: Your phone alarm goes off. Again, read the verse and say a quick prayer thanking God for continually pulling good out of our lives.

4. Afternoon: Every time you hear yourself say something negative repeat the main point of the verse (your mantra): God is working all things for good. 

5. Evening: Take a minute and journal or mentally list all the good you saw in your day. Thank God for his faithfulness in continually working in your life


3. Embrace silence and meditation:

God speaks to us when all the noise goes away – seriously. We. Need. Silence. I think if we take 8 minutes a day to sit in silence, talk to God and open our hearts to feel his movement, it can be transformational to our negative inner talk and our everyday felt connection with our Creator.

I wrote a mini-ebook called Meditations for Moms: Renewal and Empowerment in 8 minutes a Day. It includes 7 days of Silence/Prayer practices. Read more in the description:

4. Find gratitude:

The other morning I was annoyed with someone in my life. I felt like she was being hard on me, which unleashed a whole slew of self-criticism.  My thoughts spiraled down and to stop the gloom, I knew I needed to look up. Gratitude helped me lift my chin.

So, I forced my thoughts to halt and switched my brain’s focus. (Not easy.)I thought through all the amazing ways this friend has had my back in the past. I kept listing and listing how her friendship has blessed me until I finally landed on this truth: my friend wasn’t intentionally trying to hurt my feelings. She is a good friend to me.

Then, I went after my negative self-talk. I surrounded it with truth: Yes, I do fall short in some areas, but I’m really good at many other things.  Then I started listing. I’m thankful I have this quality. I’m grateful I do this well. I like this about myself…on and on…no joke.

Though I sometimes would rather wallow in self-pity (it’s easier than fighting for joy), this time I decided to use gratitude to Elsa-from-Frozen my way outta negative thinking and…let…it…go… It worked.

When the negative self-talk is banging inside of your head, start listing – on paper or in spoken words – all the good, all the blessings, all the courage in your life. And let the negative go…

5. Guard your heart:

When I was in college, my cousin told me she didn’t watch R movies because usually there was some horrific content that made her not sleep. I sat there looking at her blinking and blinking and blinking. Hmm. Maybe I should’ve said no to the movie Seven because those scenes I can never unsee. 

I’ve found her words to be true and I don’t just mean by turning off Freddy Krueger. I think what we put into our brains matters. Encouragement and wisdom in, things that don’t serve us out – it’s how we guard our hearts and keep healthy nourishment pulsing through our bodies

I know that my brain naturally goes to self-criticism first. Almost always. This means, even when I’m not feeling “off,” I need to consistently put encouraging words into my head as a form of heart-maintenance.

One way I do this is through inspirational non-fiction. I love it. My favorite books are in this post of 60+ encouraging and best books for moms.

Overcoming your negative self-talk and turning it into joy:

How connecting with God will look for you will change through your many seasons, but still, no matter what life moment you are in, find a way to go there with Him. These subtle shifts in our thinking and gentle shifts in our actions won’t disappoint.

But they only won’t disappoint us – Thorn-in-my-Side-Brain, on the other hand, will hate it.  Because this reflective practice takes up space in our minds she’d rather occupy.

But she’s going to have to deal because God’s voice in our lives draws out joy.  And joy is always invited.

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gifts for moms

Read more in the Overcoming Worry and Anxiety Series

Mommas, we’re so good at worrying. Masters at it really. It’s like we all have degrees in how to worry ourselves until we feel anxious. Our talents run deep and it’s just awesome.

Okay, not really.

Worry gets tiring. I don’t know about you, but I just get so tired of being stressed about everything. This area of my life I’ve worked hard at a made great progress, but I think it’ll always be two steps forward, one step back – I’ll always have to work at keeping perspective in life to hold my worry at bay.

I hope these articles help you the way they helped me as I wrote them:

Moms Have a Weird Relationship with Perfect
Moms, It’s Okay to Feel Disappointed When Your Kids Quit Sports
Parenting Tweens and Teens Will Rip Your Heart Out
Walk Away From Worry with the Magic 5:1 Ratio