We all have an inner voice. In psychology, there’s a word for this voice: self-talk. This self-talk is indicative of your general outlook and attitude, but it also influences how you react to your emotions, interact with the world around you and feel about yourself. It can be either positive or negative which means it can help and uplift you or it can harm and demoralize you.

People who engage in positive self-talk are resilient; they have their ups and downs like anyone else, but they’re more self-confident overall, and they have an easier time coping with stress and overcoming obstacles.

Positive self-talk may come easier to some people than others; those who grew up in a dysfunctional household or who were the victims of childhood bullying may have developed an inner voice that is self-destructive and overly critical, and you may unintentionally carry it with you through life. However, you can overcome your negative habits and learn to engage in positive self-talk that uplifts and inspires you.

How to Identify Negative Self-Talk

The easiest way to think more positively is to challenge your negative thoughts. Rather than forcing a bunch of positive feelings you don’t believe in, try to identify your negative thoughts throughout the day and ask yourself how you can re-frame them.

For example, if your first instinct when you look in the mirror is to insult your appearance, take a moment and reflect. How could you change this thought? You could choose to fixate on the parts you dislike, or you could think about how grateful you are to have a healthy body and find things you like about yourself, even if it’s something as seemingly insignificant as the flecks of green in your eyes or your button nose.

For some, this re-framing may feel insincere. If that is the case for you, remember that even just identifying the negative self-talk is a good step. Once you’ve identified the negative thought, try to separate it from yourself and your positive self-talk. You may imagine throwing it in the trash or closing the door on it. Over time, distancing yourself from your negative self-talk allows positive self-talk more room to grow.

Stopping Negative Self-Talk

Have you ever noticed that negative self-talk has a domino effect? One bad thought sends you into a downward spiral that you find almost impossible to shake yourself from. This is a process called rumination, and it can worsen the symptoms of depression and destroy your self-esteem.

Someone who ruminates with their negative thoughts will use one criticism as a springboard for more, until they’re lost in a pit of unrealistic negativity.

The cycle can go on for hours or days or might run non-stop. Self-defeating negative thoughts are best combated with positive challenges and self-affirmations. Make these challenges both measurable and attainable. If you miss your goal, make sure not to let negative self-talk keep you from trying again. If you have trouble remembering your self-affirmations, try setting a reminder on your phone or putting a note somewhere you’ll see it regularly.

If you have trouble thinking up goals or affirmations on your own, listening to positive podcasts can be a great way to start your self-talk makeover.

Moving Forward with a Smile

Getting your self-talk in shape takes time, but you can start right away. Smile right now. It’s psychologically proven to make you feel better. Tell yourself that you are going to begin thinking more highly of yourself.

Make it a goal to point out at least five positive things you see and do every day; be your own personal cheerleader. It’s okay to give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate the little things.