Motivation Articles

Positive Self-Talk Leads to Success

Good Things Come to Those Who Believe

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Most people are naturally motivated—even excited—when they begin a new exercise routine or adopt a healthier diet. You’ve got your goals set, a plan to reach them, and nothing can get in your way!

But as time goes by, the novelty wears off and your optimistic attitude can give way to feelings of doubt and dissatisfaction. Or even worse, you start comparing yourself with everyone else, mentally beating yourself up for not being as “good” or successful as they are. These negative thoughts and feelings are especially common when you’re not seeing results despite your hard work.

Sure, it’s much easier to fill your head with negative self-talk than it is to give yourself a mental pep talk. But the latter is exactly what you need to do in order to stay on track.

What you think about while you exercise, for example, affects whether or not you’ll finish today’s, tomorrow’s and even next week’s workout. If you can focus on the positives instead of the flaws when you look in the gym mirrors, you’ll be more likely to keep your appointment with the treadmill. But when your thoughts are negative or you’re comparing your thighs with someone else’s, you’re more likely to feel insecure and unmotivated, which means you’ll stop early and maybe not show up tomorrow. Researchers agree.

In a recent study from the University of Wisconsin in Whitewater, 92 female college students exercised on a stationary bike for 30 minutes, while reading one of two randomly assigned magazines (Oxygen, a women’s fitness magazine or, O the Oprah magazine, a general interest publication), or nothing at all. Those who read the fitness magazine reported more feelings of anxiety, depression and poor mood after working out than before they started. By comparison, women who read Oprah or nothing at all experienced a boost in mood after exercising. The researchers speculate that both women and men can become depressed by viewing fitness (and fashion) magazines because they feel they’ll never look as good as the models they see.

What you tell yourself while you walk the extra mile or turn down a co-worker’s brownie will often determine whether you’ll successfully reach your goals or give up in frustration along the way. When you compare yourself with others (in real life or in print) or think negatively about all the parts of your body that bother you, you’re more likely to skimp on your workout routine. When you tell yourself, “no sugar this week” then you’re more likely to obsess over the one thing you told yourself that you can’t have, and then dig in to a whole plate of brownies instead of enjoying just one. In essence, it’s your own thoughts that may be keeping you from maintaining a consistent nutrition and exercise program.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • This is a good article and just what I need right now. I am struggling with 'motivation' issues and had a couple bad days where I didn't watch what I ate and slacked on my exercise. Usually this would be the start of a long downward spiral for me and I would end up giving up. This time I read a lot of great articles on motivation, learned a lot and am rededicating myself to reaching my goals. - 5/6/2015 4:14:08 PM
  • Positive self-talk is something I really struggle with. I grew up with an alcoholic mother who used to be a model. I internalized all the comments that I needed to "suck my stomach in" and that my thighs were too big. I am definitely saving this article to reread as often as necessary to remind myself to be kind to myself and focus on the positive. - 4/27/2015 10:20:55 AM
  • This is just what I needed to hear. I've been so bad lately of beating myself up because of putting weight back on. I know that it's not entirely my fault, but the meds. that I have to be on. I need to work every day on this, to lift myself up for all my good qualities and with this, I can be more healthy! Thanks for an excellent article! - 4/25/2015 10:49:13 AM
  • This is a good article! And it gets quoted a lot here on SparkPeople. People are always saying, "You wouldn't say that to a friend, so why are you saying that to yourself?" Now I know where they got it! Wow, thank you! - 3/31/2015 8:33:37 PM
  • I was surprised that an magazine about health and fitness would depress people. I am not surprised about the self-talk. I have always quoted the Bible verse "I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me." This talk has got me through many difficult workouts and life situations. - 3/31/2015 1:47:47 PM
  • Good article. Guess that is why I prefer workout coaches who are a bit plump, or at least have had to lose serious weight to get where they are, not the sculpted former athletes who have no clue. Sculpted coaches do NOT motivate me, they are just constant reminders I am not like them. Much work to do......... - 3/29/2015 12:21:45 PM
  • Good article. One for the editor: you feel badly with your hands, not with your brains. You feel bad about yourself. - 11/19/2014 7:49:17 PM
  • This article really hit home with me. I recently reached my goal weight, and it have been obsessing about whether or not I can maintain it. Of course I can! - 7/28/2014 10:14:11 AM
  • COASTAL6
    I could be my worst enemy or my best friend, I leave it at that. But Today I chose to be my best friend. - 7/27/2014 1:35:12 PM
  • VAINVT
    I agree you have to tell yourself you are doing positive things. Turning down the brownie benefits you, it does not deprive you. - 2/28/2014 10:12:00 AM
  • I really needed to read this one! I've been struggling a lot with this exact problem lately and this really helped! - 10/17/2013 3:59:07 PM
  • NEARLYNINA
    I really agree with this article. While I never felt affected by fashion magazines in high school (I just wanted to look at the clothes!) I DEFINITELY noticed the way it would affect a lot of the other girls around me and I think that fitness magazines are even worse. Just a whole lot of negativity masquerading as positive "healthy" adivce etc.

    I will say though that I also think SparkPeople could do better in this aspect. None of the models look heavier than 120lb at most and none of them are really athletic looking. I'd like to see more images of women who look like Coach Nicole; athletic and healthy not skinny. Or how about some "plus size" models? Particularly since "plus size" in the industry is size 10-12 or even size 8 nowadays. How much more inspirational and healthy would it be to see happy smiling women with everyday healthy bodies!

    - 10/5/2013 12:46:41 PM
  • Hmmm. - 10/4/2013 12:38:27 PM
  • UN_TAMED
    I need to share this on tumblr-the amount of fitness and thinspo on there....it's counter-productiv
    e people! - 6/27/2013 4:11:01 AM
  • Great article. The mind does play tricks on us. - 6/11/2013 8:07:50 AM

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