This may all seem very obvious, and yet negative self-talk (spoken or thought) still happens regularly. For that reason, it’s important to be aware when it happens and to actively nip it in the bud.
“What we say to ourselves, when we say [it], and how, has a tremendous impact on our self-esteem, beliefs about self-efficacy and overall sense of worth,” says Dr. Nicolosi. “When working with my patients, the focus is less on whether they talk to themselves, and more about the content of those conversations.”
Use self-talk to your advantage: Cheering yourself on before an important event or talking to yourself while completing a task are two great opportunities for self-talk. In fact, a small study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology found that when looking for familiar items (like those keys), speaking to themselves and saying the name of the item out loud helped people find the objects more quickly.
You can also use self-talk to work through extreme emotions — including anger, sadness, confusion and stress — and to sort out personal conundrums. Consider the act a sort of “spoken journal to yourself.” (If doing so was good enough for Socrates and Plato via “Socratic Dialogue,” it’s good enough for us.) As an extension of that idea, it’s also argued that talking out loud while studying can help expedite and cement your understanding of the topic, notes Dr. Don Vaughn, a neuroscientist who studies human behavior.
“One study found that asking oneself out loud what a piece of information means significantly improved learning,” explains Dr. Vaughn. “A hypothesized explanation for this phenomenon is that the process of answering a question improves consolidation of information from working memory into long-term memory. One is effectively speeding up the learning process by acting as both the inquiring teacher and the challenged student.”
Don’t forget to listen: “It’s important to note that [talking to yourself] is a two-part process: the talking and the listening,” says Dr. Harper. “Self-listening, otherwise known as self-awareness, is a primary factor in offering feedback for self-efficacy.”
In other words, there’s a reason you’re feeling compelled to talk out loud, so be sure to also listen to what you’re saying, too.
Dr. Nicolosi adds, “Self-talk should be thought of as a healthy way of giving ourselves the support we need to get through a moment. [It’s us] showing up for ourselves and being the friend we need.”
Feeling free enough to wholly engage in talking to yourself may take some time, especially since there tends to be a stigma attached to the practice. Just remember: Self-talk is not only completely normal, but can also be beneficial in the long run — and it may just help you find your keys.
YOUR BRAIN ON...
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