9 Surprising Benefits of Talking to Yourself
It doesn’t mean you’re crazy. In fact, it can help you clarify your thoughts, shake off stress, and boost your mood.
My teenager is home on break from college and my husband quit his job to freelance, so now we both work from home. I love having them around, so I couldn’t figure out why I’d been feeling stressed out. Then I went for a long walk alone and immediately understood what I’d been missing: talking to myself.
I talk to myself. Out loud. A lot. And when I don’t, I’m like an athlete who can’t practice his sport or a musician denied time with her instrument.
When you talk to yourself, you’re paying attention to someone who often gets short shrift in your life: you. If you berate yourself for behaving idiotically or painfully regret something you’ve done, obviously your self-talk is going to make you feel worse. But if you get a good dialogue going between you and yourself, you can make real headway in clarifying your thoughts and even lifting your mood. I’d go so far as to say the practice is a form of mindful self-compassion.
And get this: It’s even been shown to give you a cognitive boost. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology published results of a study in which 20 volunteers were shown lots of pictures of objects and told to pick the one showing a banana. Half did the task quietly and the other half repeated the word “banana” out loud the whole time. The self-talkers found the picture of the banana a little faster. It’s also known that children learn better when they talk their way through a new skill—something they do instinctively. We only lose this helpful habit when we grow up and fear that talking aloud to ourselves may be taken as a sign of madness.
I certainly don’t do it to find bananas or learn to finger-paint, and I try not to do it in earshot of others (though I know I’ve inadvertently revealed the habit more than once). There’s something about your words traveling from mouth to ear with no one else listening that can be incredibly freeing. I admit on occasion to even asking myself “What do you think?” after explaining one possible solution to something that’s troubling me. “You,” of course, is me…but it’s also my subconscious, which I’m happy to tap for advice. Talking out loud is a great way for your conscious brain to communicate with your subconscious.
Here are a few things self-talk can do for you:
1. Give yourself a shoutout. Even if no one else seems to be appreciating you at the moment, compliment yourself on the way you handled a difficult situation, left your comfort zone for a new adventure, or just got through a busy day.