top of page


This site is for student nurses or nurses starting out. Letters to a Young Nurse are blog posts written like letters to help you find your way and make your journey as a nurse less difficult. 


Positive Self Talk

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Let's take a few minutes and talk about another important soft skill; positivity. I started a new job recently and worked with a nurse who has been at this job for many years. She is smart and very knowledgeable. I learned a great deal from her, but she did one thing several times that bothered me. When she made a simple mistake, she called herself a dummy and asked, "why are you so stupid?" After the 5th time of hearing this it made me wonder what those words did to her psyche.

Think about this for a minute, would you talk to a friend, a spouse, a family member the way you talk to yourself? And if you made a mistake, would you berate yourself and think you are a failure and will never be a good nurse? If a co-worker said those words you were hearing in your head, how would you feel?

Barbara Fredrickson, Ph.D., has been studying positivity for 20 years and has two books called Positivity: Discover the Upward Spiral That Will Change Your Life and Love 2.0: Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection. She says that positive emotions can broaden our awareness and open our mind.

There are several scientifically tested reasons to being positive.

1. People are more creative when they’re experiencing positive emotions.

2. People are more likely to be resilient. They bounce back quicker from upset or conflict.

3. Studying and academic performance increases for positive people.

4. There are benefits in medicine. One study showed that a doctor made better medical decisions after being given a piece of candy.

5. Positive emotions allow us to look past racial and cultural differences and increase positive social connections with others.

Fredrickson (2011) goes onto say that we can affect regeneration of our cells in our body. Everyday, old cells are dying and being replaced by new cells. We replace about 30% of our cells every month. But that number can be increased with positivity. "Our emotions affect that level of cellular change." (Fredrickson, 2011) Studies have shown a rise when subjects had a ratio of 3-1. To affect change there needs to be three positive emotions for every negative emotion. So, the next time a patient yells at you for being late with their pain pills you need to go ask two coworkers for positive praise. Or you have to think about the good things you did that day. Or you can practice Metta Meditation. (See the blog entry: Trust and Pay Attention for an audio file of Sylvia Boorstein performing Metta Meditation).

But how do we create positivity in our busy and chaotic lives? Having a positive mindset creates or manifests as positivity. But you cannot be positive in an insincere, sarcastic way. Your positivity must be sincere, open, appreciative, and real. I worked with a wise, older nurse and anytime someone asked her how she was doing she would answer with "I'm great!" At first, I was confused because she was working in hospice. But then I saw her sincerity and intention behind the practice. By saying she was great staff, patients and families understood that she was great, and her greatness would help their loved one die peacefully and with dignity. When I get sad and melancholy, I remember that nurse and I change my language. Which changes my perspective and helps me be more positive. There is a great deal of criticism lately about "fake it 'til you make it". But by acting positively my brain will take notice of the behavior and change my mind. Which has loads of benefits.

If you would like to learn more about Positivity and Fredrickson's research go to Greater Good.

You can take a quiz to see how positive you are at:

And you can find her books and blog there too.

I love the story Fredrickson (2011) tells about positivity versus negativity:

I want to close with a famous Native American story. It goes like this: One evening, an old Cherokee tells his grandson that inside all people, a battle goes on between two wolves. One wolf is negativity: anger, sadness, stress, contempt, disgust, fear, embarrassment, guilt, shame, and hate. The other is positivity: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and above all, love.

The grandson thinks about this for a minute, then asks his grandfather, “Well, which wolf wins?”

The grandfather replies, “The one you feed.”

It is our choice which one we feed. Will you choose to be positive about yourself when a patient yells at you and calls you a failure? The better choice for your cells is to think of all the positive ways you helped other patients that day. We make mistakes because "there is no cure for being human "as Kate Bowler says. But think of all the ways you were good medicine for your other patients.

So, the next time someone asks you, "How are you?", say "I'm GREAT!" And mean it!

Let me know if this practice worked for you!

Fredrickson, B. (2011, June 21). Are You Getting Enough Positivity in Your Diet? Greater Good; Greater Good Science Center.

17 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page