Benefits of Talking to Yourself

Think again about that time you lost your keys and started talking to yourself. Have you ever wondered why people mutter to themselves when trying to find something? According to psychologists Gary Lupyan of the University of Wisconsin Madison and Daniel Swingley of the University of Pennsylvania, talking to yourself while trying to locate something may actually help you locate it faster. To support this claim, Lupyan and Swingley published the results from an experiment they conducted in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology. In the experiment, Lupyan and Swingly showed participants twenty pictures of various objects. The participants were later asked to find one of the pictures among the others. Some participants were instructed to remain silent while they searched and others were instructed to repeat the name of the thing they were looking for out loud to themselves. When the experiment concluded, Lupyan and Swingley had data that supported the idea that the participants who spoke aloud as they searched through the pictures found their objects faster. A follow up experiment was done later where participants were asked to look for things in a grocery store. As before, some were silent as they searched and others were instructed to say what they were looking for aloud. The results of the follow up came to the same conclusion as the first experiment: the people who said what they were looking for aloud to themselves found it faster.

With research such as this being done, the growing belief is that talking to yourself is very good for your attention span and focus; that it can allow you to focus on something and better ignore distractions, which is probably why muttering as you’re trying to find something helps you find it fast. Talking to yourself can also be used as a tool to learn and memorize material. Anyone who has ever needed to give a presentation or speech will tell you that talking to themselves or rehearsing what they’d like to say is a great way for them to organize their thoughts. And considering how some people learn better auditorily, muttering everything they need to learn out loud is probably the best thing for them to do. But another benefit people are slowly noticing about self talk, is that at times, it seems to be therapeutic.

Lower Stress
At Nottingham Trent University, a poll was taken among research subjects. The poll revealed that most of these subjects felt that it was legitimate to speak to others, but not to themselves. However, when these same subjects were asked to try talking to themselves, it seemed that their stress levels noticeably decreased. According to another study, athletes giving themselves motivational talks before an event lowered their anxiety and increased their confidence and performance in their event.

How can this happen? Well, talking to yourself in a positive way seems to be able to get people “psyched-up” about something which is why it could have an effect on athletes or anyone else about to do something requiring effort. It would also seem that when people take the time to say what they’re really thinking or feeling aloud to themselves, it has a similar effect to journaling; you’re able to vent any strong emotions and let out what you really think. Anyone who has kept a journal will tell you that they often feel good after writing something down. The same thing happens when you talk to yourself; you become an audible journal and suddenly you’re able to speak your mind. And when you’re feeling stressed out, sometimes a little pacing and a little pep talk or muttering is all you need to calm yourself down. Taking the time to vent out a stressful feeling or thought can tremendously help you to calm down. This is why a common sight at a job interview might be someone muttering to themselves and telling themselves to stay calm and that they’ll be all right.

Of course, speaking your mind to other people is good too but what if you’re shy or introverted? You have thoughts that still have to be said but what do you do if you’re scared to talk to others? When you can’t go to anyone else, who can you share your innermost thoughts with? Who do you know for sure will completely understand where you’re coming from and not judge you? The answer is yourself. When you can’t talk to other people you can always talk to yourself. And sometimes, a good talk with yourself is all you need to get back in order.

Free Your Emotions
Besides venting your thoughts, talking to yourself can also be a refreshing way to free any feelings or thoughts you might have had bottled up and allow them to take a new course. When having a long conversation with yourself, it can go in several different directions if you’re willing to let it. The human brain contains trillions of neurons all firing off electrical signals in the form of thoughts constantly. This being said, it can be fairly easy to have a conversation about any subject with yourself and have it go anywhere. Some people have attributed levels of self awareness, inspiration, or spirituality to long conversations with themselves.

Better Decisions
All this being said, long conversations with yourself can also help with your decision making. People tend to act more impulsively when they don’t mull something over or can’t think about how they really feel about something. Have you ever noticed that a thought you have in your head might seem different when you take it out and look at it? Saying an idea out loud and hearing it said can possibly help you to get a real feel for what you’re thinking before you actually do something. Therefore, talking to yourself can help you to think twice before you make a decision.

What Not to Say to Yourself
Talking to yourself to vent or have your thoughts said is a great thing to do. But sometimes, having a talk with yourself can make your state of mind worse depending on what you say.

People often claim that they would never dream of telling someone else that they’re stupid, selfish, or sound like a fool. But these same people sometimes won’t hesitate to say these things about themselves. When you’re talking to yourself, putting yourself down or being too hard on yourself is the last thing you want to do. There could be any number of reasons why you put yourself down. But the point is that you should avoid doing it however you can. If you continuously repeat self defeating phrases then eventually you’ll start to believe them. Once you start believing the negative things you say about yourself, you’ll bring about a self fulfilling prophecy; you’ll knowingly or unknowingly do something to bring about what you expect. If you constantly put yourself down and believe you can’t do something, then you’ll begin to act in a way that might prevent you from doing it. Then at the end of the day, you’ll find that you really weren’t able to do whatever it was you were putting yourself down about in the first place. Once you start bringing about self fulfilling prophecies then it’s likely that you could begin to suffer from anxiety, depression, or other consequences. You live inside your mind and therefore, you are what you believe you are. If you believe you have no worth, then things can easily begin to go badly for you and they go badly because that’s just what you expected to happen.

Fortunately, the opposite of this is also true. If you constantly tell yourself positive things and have a more optimistic viewpoint, then you’ll be able to bring about self fulfilling prophecies with desirable results. To do this, you don’t have to go overboard in your praise to the point of narcissism. But if faced with a problem, try telling yourself “I’ll just look at this again and take it step by step” rather than “I can’t do this”. If you tell yourself more positive things and believe what you tell yourself, you’ll greatly improve your chances of actually doing whatever it is you’re working on or accomplishing whatever it is you want to accomplish.

It may be difficult to believe everything you tell yourself at first but remember this, just like everyone talks to themselves, everyone makes mistakes and everyone fails at something sometime. So when you fail or make a mistake, take it as a learning experience rather than telling yourself you were stupid for doing it. Learn what not to do from your mistakes. That’s how Edison invented the light bulb. No one that has ever accomplished anything has ever done it perfectly and you’re no different than they are.

Bottom line, be nice to yourself when talking to yourself. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t want someone to say to you and try to help yourself out. If you’re trying to vent or problem solve, make sure you’re helpful to yourself. Come up with solutions, think them through, and if one solution doesn’t work out then think up something else and don’t put yourself down because the first idea didn’t work. Nothing was ever accomplished by someone telling themselves they were no good. All the greatest people in history are great because they never let anything slow them down. And when they failed, they just tried something different.

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