decreasing negative self-talk


When it comes to our thought life, there are times when negativity begins to cast an ugly shadow on our life. Though we may always experience a little negativity in our mind from time to time, there is another more intense experience that I coined “smurgging” in college.

Smurgging happens when specific negative thoughts repeat themselves over and over in our minds. As the thought reoccurs, the neural pathways in the brain become stronger. A tiny negative thought that repeats itself on a loop builds a stronger (negative) thought muscle. And as this negative thought repeats and strengthens, the thought passes through our mind faster and more frequently.

Literally, negative thoughts can become habitual thoughts over time.

Often, once smurgging takes root in one area of our life, it grows to criticize other areas too. So if smurgging first starts out as an attack against our body (Why can’t I just get into shape already? I have no self-control.), it may also start latching onto our careers or relationships (When am I going to find a job that I love? Why can’t I keep a boyfriend?).

As smurgging spreads it can cast an ugly shadow on almost any area of your life that your ego thinks is “not good enough.”

Fortunately, there is are ways to deescalate a smurgging pattern.

One option is to create an ego “Top 10 List.” Just like pop radio, our ego’s have a hit list. There are usually 5-10 (sometimes more) topics that loop continuously during a smurgging binge. Take some time to write down your ego’s favorite smurgging topics.

By reflecting on smurgging and identifying the topics that are merely ego projections, you can start to disengage from the belief that those thoughts are true… or that they are actually your own intuitive beliefs at all.

These thoughts are not “real” nor are they coming from your intuition. You need to start seeing them as simply false or distorted quotes that play in your head. Nothing more.

It might help to imagine a day where you had a particularly rough time with smurgging. Retrace your steps and observe which thoughts were critical and unnecessarily harsh. Chances are, those overtly mean thoughts are not actually “true” but just an outcome of strong smurgging neural pathways.

Next, visualize your daily routine and identify the places, people, or routines that trigger smurrging on a regular basis.

Like my life client, Julie*, you might find that your workday is rampant with smurgging. To help Julie address her work-centered smurgging, I suggested she listen to positive books** on the subjects her ego likes to smurg about during her commute. By replacing the time to and from work with positive, useful messages she’ll start to interrupt her ego’s smurgging time more and more.

Less time for the ego to smurg means weaker negative neural pathways. 

Over time, by identifying smurgging as it’s happening and realizing that it’s not really “You” thinking those thoughts, you can start to take your ego’s rants a little less seriously.

And ultimately, but replacing those nagging fears with with loving, true thoughts you can begin to tip the scales back towards a more loving and positive thought life.

It’s not easy to rewire your brain, but it’s certainly worth it for peace of mind.


Amen and namaste.



* I changed her name for privacy. 

** My recommendations? Women, Food, and God, and The Pursuit of Perfect.

*** Franklin has nothing to do with this post, just thought I’d add a little puppy to your Tuesday morning.

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  1. EmyselfandI

    Great post. I actually was inspired to write something very similar yesterday after seeing the quote you posted. This sounds like a great exercise that I’d like to try! Thanks!

  2. karen

    great post. I pinned it so I can refer back to it. My “smurgging” neural pathways are insanely ingrained, and it is a high priority for me this year to retrain my brain to be kinder to myself. So I appreciate the suggestions for combating this tendency.

    1. Jess Lively

      I hope these suggestions help! It can take time to rewire our brains, so be gentle with yourself and progress. : )

  3. I’ve been reading The Passion Test (and dog earing a ton of pages!) and the authors talk a lot about how what you say in your head becomes truth. And when choosing a goal, be as specific as possible and keep reminding yourself of that goal and that you are fully capable of accomplishing it. I know it’s helped as I’m reading the book slowly to change my beliefs in myself. Anyway, great post!

    1. Jess Lively

      Awesome! It sounds like a great read!

  4. Rachel Burke

    what a useful post! I think everyone falls into a pattern of negative or self destructive thought. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Lemon Drop Love

    This is incredibly useful. The best part is it is logical and doable! And most importantly it really gives you the ability to take a step back from all the negativity in your brain and look at it in a more constructive way (instead of ALWAYS getting sucked in and listening to your darn EGO) b/c sometimes you can get trapped in those bad thought patterns. Thanks, Jess!

  6. Victoria C

    Great post! And I love the picture of Franklin! He is the cutest and reminds me of my old Westie!

    1. Jess Lively

      Thanks! He’s like, “let’s sit down and talk about this, okay?”

  7. Jess Lively

    Lauren, I’m so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. And at the same time I’m so happy to hear about your baby! I hope you find peace with the smurgging. It may take time, but it will go away with watchful acceptance.

  8. Jessica

    Great Post! This was very helpful as trying to identify them. I never tried identifying each one. I know that when I do go into negative self talk, I notice immediately because I learned that some of them are not true. Just because it happened once in an experience that validated that thought, does not mean it will happen again or anyone thinks of me that way.
    But I like identifying them. I’m going to do that right now. Thanks for this post!

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