How to Quiet Your Negative Inner Voice

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Chatter" by Ethan Kross. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you struggle with negative self-talk? How can you stop talking negatively to yourself?

Negative self-talk or inner voice can severely affect your self-esteem and close you off from the joys life has to offer. This can, in turn, reinforce your negative state, pulling you further and further into the rabbit hole of negative thinking.

Psychologist Ethan Kross explains how to quiet your negative inner voice by redirecting your attention.

Pursue Amazement

According to neuroscientist and experimental psychologist Ethan Kross, you can quiet your negative inner voice by redirecting your attention away from your negative thoughts and toward something amazing. Kross explains that amazing experiences can quiet your inner cynic because they reduce brain activity associated with self-immersion: getting lost in your thoughts, including negative self-talk. 

(Shortform note: Amazing experiences also provide additional important benefits that Kross doesn’t mention. For instance, research reveals that experiencing amazement helps you feel like you have plenty of time. This may help reduce some of the stress you experience when you feel rushed. Furthermore, amazing experiences inspire creativity. Studies show that amazing experiences make you more open-minded about different perspectives.)

Here are four of Kross’s tips for seeking out amazing experiences:

1) Notice everyday, incredible moments. Enjoy the moment when your child uses a new word they’ve learned, or revel in the miraculous taste of your morning coffee. (Shortform note: In The Book of Delights, poet and essayist Ross Gay offers a strategy for noticing and appreciating everyday, incredible moments (which he calls “delights”): Write about them. He resolved to write every day about delights, from a bright red flower shooting up from a crack in the asphalt to getting a cheerful text message from a friend. He claims that the act of noticing and writing about delights led him to notice and appreciate even more everyday delights.)

2) Enjoy some art. Read a work of fiction, see a play, or attend a live performance. (Shortform note: Consider not only appreciating amazing art but also creating your own. Research reveals that making art (such as writing a song) increases blood flow to your brain’s reward center and lowers stress. Given the aforementioned links between experiencing stress and engaging in negative self-talk, stress-reducing art projects may also quiet your inner cynic.)

3) Witness something mind-blowing. Have a conversation with someone who survived a life-changing disaster or read a book about the neuroscience of octopi. (Shortform note: Research shows that mind-blowing experiences can increase your desire to connect positively with others. One study found that after participants viewed panoramic videos of Earth’s natural beauty, they were more social, more likely to volunteer, and more likely to donate money. This research suggests that witnessing something mind-blowing could prevent the social isolation negative self-talk creates.)

4) Spend time near nature. Go on a walk, visit an aquarium, or gaze at the night sky. (Shortform note: A recent study reveals that spending time in nature also improves your body image. Researchers theorize that being outdoors distances you from sources that tend to trigger negative thoughts about your body (such as social media). Improving your body image may in turn help to silence your inner critic, as critical thoughts about your body often manifest as negative self-talk.)

How to Quiet Your Negative Inner Voice

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Here's what you'll find in our full Chatter summary:

  • How negative self-talk interferes with your happiness, health, and success
  • Research-based strategies for managing negative self-talk
  • Four actionable tips for quieting your internal cynic

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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