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Self-Critical? Self-Talk Will Help!

By Marty Rubin, 01/30/23, 11:15AM PST


Do you have a nagging voice inside your head that criticizes every little thing you do? Do you get upset with yourself after small mistakes on the ice? Read this to learn positive self-talk practices.

Research shows that "people are more motivated to improve themselves if they practice self-compassion." When our brains learn certain habits, it is very hard to unlearn those habits. "When our neural pathways are established," says Dr. Rachel Turow, "they are vulnerable to an automatic activation. We are very efficient." And therefore, if we get ourselves into the habit of self-criticism such as quickly pointing out our flaws and mistakes and/or using negative language to motivate ourselves, we are only hurting our potential. Even worse, we are reinforcing all the behavior that we know in our conscious minds that we want to get rid of. 

Just like we create new, healthy habits on the ice, we need to practice positive techniques to bounce back from unfavorable circumstances or motivate ourselves to do hard things. For starters, Dr. Turow's 'The Self Talk Workout' offers a very achievable exercise:  I take one breath and say something kind to myself. "Inhale my friend, exhale my friend" she says. When we change our breathing, we can act positively on our stress and bring our focus to our body rather than the thoughts that might drag us down or rile us up. 

Next, Dr. Turow describes a practice called "Spot the Success." In this daily practice, especially when things feel hard, we name ten things (no matter how small) that have contributed in a good way to ourselves, our community, or the world. For example, 1) I got out of bed when my alarm rang 2) I turned in a project on time 3) I recycled instead of trashing 4) I had enough water today 5) I gave someone a genuine compliment 6) I packed my hockey bag with all my gear 7) I tied my skates the way I like them 8) I modeled listening to my coach by giving them eye contact 9) I skated through the line on every drill 10) I cleaned up the locker room after practice. 

For more positive self-talk practices, check out The Happiness Lab Podcast with Dr. Laurie Santos and Dr. Turow's book 'The Self Talk Workout'. Consider these exercises and approaches to mindfulness as a catalyst for your hockey development and leadership skills!

Have questions or want to talk about these resources? Email