Have you ever found yourself in a cycle of negative self-talk? It can be hard to break and challenging to transform into something positive. But practicing Ahimsa toward yourself can be a powerful way to tend to your mental health and cultivate a more positive inner voice.
How Would Your Highest Self Speak? Why You Need to Practice Ahimsa Through Positive Self-Talk
What Is Ahimsa?
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, he lays out the Eight-Limbed Path of yoga. The first limb is comprised of the five Yamas:
- Ahimsa (non-violence)
- Asteya (non-stealing)
- Satya (truthfulness)
- Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
- Brahmacharya (celibacy or fidelity)
The first Yama, Ahimsa, referred to as non-violence or non-harm, is most commonly discussed as being directed toward others.
We practice Ahimsa through the ways we treat and speak to others – everything from physically harming another person or animal to being rude to our local barista. The aim is to not cause harm as we move through our interactions with others.
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How Can We Practice Ahimsa Toward Ourselves Through Self-Talk?
Another way to explore Ahimsa is to consider how you treat yourself. More specifically, how you speak to yourself.
What does your self-talk sound like? Are you hard on yourself when you mess up? Do you use a lot of negative self-talk?
What does your inner dialogue sound like when you look in the mirror or struggle with something that’s hard for you? We often pay more attention to the way we speak to others than to our own self-talk.
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How Powerful Is Self-Talk for Your Mental Health?
The way we speak to ourselves has a powerful effect on our mental health.
Negative self-talk, like rumination and self-blame, have been linked to a greater risk of mental health problems.
Studies have also shown that positive self-talk can reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. To tend to your mental health, it’s worth investing time and energy into harnessing the power of your inner voice.
Here Are 5 Ways to Practice Ahimsa With Your Self-Talk:
1. Become an Observer of Your Thoughts
The first step is to simply notice. Pay attention to your thoughts as you go about your day. When something happens, how do you react internally?
Try not to make any judgments here; just notice. The more in-tune with your inner voice you are, the easier it will be to cultivate positive self-talk.
Practice pausing a few times a day to listen to what’s going on inside your mind.
2. Start a Journaling Practice
A journaling practice can be a powerful tool for self-inquiry and transformation.
Once you’ve tuned into your inner voice, notice what your self-talk sounds like. Try writing it down as a part of your journaling practice.
Seeing the words on the page makes it more concrete and gives you factual data to work with. Writing it down helps you see things objectively. This can be a simple practice of handwriting a paragraph or two each day.
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3. Use Positive Affirmations and Mantras
Chances are, we could all use a more uplifting inner voice. Positive affirmations and mantras can be a great tool for cultivating that.
Affirmations and mantras are simple words or statements that you can repeat to yourself throughout the day, as a way of training your mind to focus on the positive.
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It can be as simple as, “I see the good in all things” or something more unique to your circumstance, like, “I am confident and able to speak clearly in front of my co-workers.”
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4. Celebrate Your Wins
When was the last time you celebrated something good that happened to you or something you accomplished?
We often tend to focus more on what has gone wrong than on the things that are going well. A good habit to get into is celebrating your wins.
Try this: at the end of each day, write down one or two things that went really well that day. It can be as small as your morning cup of coffee was amazing or as big as a promotion at work. Let yourself soak in that positive feeling.
5. Reframe Negatives Into Positives
A quick practice you can use when you notice your inner voice getting negative is to reframe it into something positive.
First, meet the thought with kindness. Remember, practicing Ahimsa means non-harming. Don’t beat yourself up.
Then, consider how to shift your thoughts toward something more positive. For example, when you catch yourself thinking, “That was so stupid of me, I should have known better!”
Shift that thought to, “I made a mistake, that’s okay. I’ll do better next time.” or “I can only do as well as what I know. Now that I know better, I’ll do better next time.”
The more you practice this, the easier it will become.
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Practice Ahimsa With Your Self-Talk to Positively Affect Your Mental Health
As you work through these five ways of practicing Ahimsa with your inner voice, positive self-talk will become more second nature.
Your mental health will improve through this process and so will your overall well-being. Keep showing up to this practice, be good to yourself, and trust the process.