There’s anecdotal evidence, and even a handful of scientific studies, that confirm the positive effect words of encouragement can have on performance. (Interestingly, sports psychology is leading the research on this topic.) It makes sense, then, that negative self-talk serves us poorly and ought to be avoided.

“If we’re talking to ourselves negatively, research suggests that we’ll more likely guide ourselves to a negative outcome,” says Dr. Harper. “However, when self-talk is neutral — as in a statement like ‘What do I need to do?’ — or positive, such as ‘I can get this done,’ then the outcome is much more effective.”