Why Talking to Yourself Is Actually a Good Thing
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Talking to yourself is pretty common. Here's how it can be a good thing.
Chances are you talk to yourself throughout the day whether you’re aware of it or not—everything from “I’m going to be late!” to “I love this dress” to “I’m so behind at work” has likely crossed your mind pretty often. But have you have ever said such phrases out loud? If you answered yes, you’re on the right side of science.
It turns out that expressing some inner thoughts out loud can actually help you better conquer the present and future and is something we should all start doing, according to Lisa Ferentz, clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and author of Finding Your Ruby Slippers: Transformative Life Lessons From the Therapist’s Couch.
What is self-talk?
Ferentz employs this practice most often when it comes to helping her clients develop a positive outlook about themselves and the day ahead. “There’s nothing more important than the way we talk to ourselves because that inner monologue informs in subtle and not-so-subtle ways all our subsequent thoughts, emotional states, and behavioral choices,” she says. Simply put, if you’re constantly critical, judgmental, or facing the day with a negative attitude, you’re making it pretty hard for yourself to encounter positivity down the line. (Find out how to develop a positive attitude in 6 steps.)
A good way to adopt a healthy mental state is to write down what you’re grateful for, your own strengths, and positive affirmations; then stand in front of a mirror and say those things out loud. If you feel silly, don’t give up. “Like anything else, once you practice and approach it from a positive place, you discover it’s quite easy to do. It guides our life whether we’re conscious of it or not,” says Ferentz. (Learn how to stop negative self-talk for good.)
What are the benefits of talking to yourself?
Ferentz also encourages people to whisper aloud pep talks or explore their thoughts and feelings before heading into a potentially intimidating, threatening, or overwhelming situation. “When we whisper positively to ourselves it gives us a little more strength and courage so we can meet a challenging scenario head-on,” she says. That sentiment echoes 2017 research in Psychology of Sport and Exercise that found athletes are often fans of self-talk ahead of competitions. It might even be beneficial to specifically talk to yourself in the third person—research in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who used internal third-person self-talk felt less anxiety.
That doesn’t mean you can’t mutter aloud your frustrations, too. Just like there’s a place for positive self-talk, there’s also a place for negative if you approach it the right way. “There’s definitely a value to understanding what you’re feeling whether it’s positive or negative. Saying negative thoughts out loud can be very validating,” says Ferentz. “Bringing the negative stuff you’re thinking and feeling to the surface then gives you the opportunity to reevaluate it.” Once you voice what’s bothering you, try asking yourself if it’s useful to keep holding on to those thoughts or if it’s something you can process and then let go of.
So next time you hold a little two-way conversation with yourself, don’t worry, it’s perfectly OK and might even be beneficial. Next, check out the other surprising benefits of talking to yourself.
- Lisa Ferentz, clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and author of Finding Your Ruby Slippers: Transformative Life Lessons From the Therapist’s Couch
- Psychology of Sport and Exercise: "Self-Talk in Sport and Performance"
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: "Self-Talk as a Regulatory Mechanism: How You Do It Matters"