Are you your worst enemy or best friend?
All of us talk to ourselves every day. But, we may not notice how often these conversations take place. In fact, the act of talking to yourself - or self talk - is still a little bit of a mystery. That is why What's Up started this self-talk series.

This month's challenge is to find out all you can about your own selftalk habits.

Keep a log
For five days, carry a small note book and pen with you. Jot down examples of your self talk. Whenever you notice that you are saying something to yourself, write about it as soon as possible. Use these headings for every example:

My self talk example #
What I said to myself:
What I did after that:
How I felt:

It is okay not to capture every single time that you talked to yourself. The idea is simply to have enough examples for you to see your habits more clearly.

Your starting point
Your self-talk log can help you to know where to start and what to fix. It is pretty much like learning a sport. When you sign up for swimming lessons, the registration form asks you what you can already do in water. Likewise, you need to figure out whether you are a rookie or a pro at talking to yourself in healthy ways.

Search your log for words that made you feel stronger and that helped you to make good decisions. You were a friend to yourself when you used those words. Draw a happy smiley next to these examples of positive self talk.

Next, look for words and phrases that left you feeling more discouraged, helpless or worse off. Whenever that happened, you pulled yourself down. Add a sad emoticon for those negative words and phrases.

Flick through your notebook to see how frequently your happy and sad smileys appear. This gives you a rough idea of how you have been treating yourself.

Positive self talk gives you more energy to keep going even during hard times. Negative self talk is not helpful because it trips you and pulls you down.

When were you more negative? And, when did positive thoughts come easily? Some people feel down when they are hungry or tired. Others may be affected by the weather: a rainy day can cheer up one person and, at the same time, make another person feel gloomy. These moods then affect what you say to yourself. But, very often, the words you use are just a matter of habit. When negative self talk becomes a habit, then it stops you from making good decisions.

Words have power:
Take a look at these two examples.

Zed's class is going swimming for PE. She is unhappy about it because she feels awkward in her swimsuit. Imagine Zed's mood if she keeps saying to herself, "I look lousy in swimsuits. I hope I'll fall sick before PE - then I can escape swimming." Instead, she might feel better by saying, "I don't look terrific in swimsuits. But, never mind, it doesn't really matter that much. I'm going to enjoy myself anyway."

Wai goes to a party and finds that none of his friends have turned up yet. He says to himself, "Oh no! I have no one to talk to. I can't stand around looking like a fool. This is terrible." And, because he feels even worse after that, he leaves the party immediately. He might stay and enjoy the party if he says to himself, "Let me seeā€¦ my friends haven't come yet. Not a problem - time to make more friends. This'll be fun!"

In each case, can you see how the self talk either makes the person feel worse or better? More importantly, different words actually steer Zed and Wai's actions in different directions.

Use kind and caring words
All of us think thoughts that are sometimes negative and sometimes positive about ourselves - ideally, the positive thoughts should happen more often than the negative. Otherwise, it is as if there is a mean little critic inside you, waiting to pounce on every fault and weakness. That is when you can become your own worst enemy.

You do need to pay attention to whatever is going wrong in your life but you should not bash yourself while doing it. Instead, it is healthier to use kind and caring words. That way, you can be your own best buddy whenever you talk to yourself.