Ever find yourself talking to yourself and feel embarrassed by it?
Well, research into so-called “self-talk” shows that this sort of self-imposed lecturing can actually be good for you.
If you do it the right way.
Lately, a growing number of medical researchers have become focused on how to put self-talk to work to help with the challenges of daily life. Their findings show that this type of self-coaching can be a valuable resource that more people should use to up their mental game.
So let me show you how.
What Is Self-Talk?
Self-talk is the internal dialogue that runs through your head every day, often in the form of a self-talk statement. It has a powerful influence on how you feel and act, making self-talk incredibly valuable. This is why self-talk is important in our daily lives.
Self-talk can either be encouraging and helpful, spurring you on, or it can be negative, weakening your assurance. For instance, positive self-talk might sound like, “I had a great learning experience at work today. I’m confident that I have the skills to do an even better job next time. I’m sure I can get that promotion.”
On the flip side, negative self-talk can undermine your abilities and exacerbate feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Evidence suggests that negative self-talk has been linked with disorders such as:
- low self-esteem
- post-traumatic stress disorder
Recognizing how often and what kind of constructive thinking/self-talk you engage in is the first step to enhancing self-talk and experiencing the benefits of positive self-talk.
Recognize And Change Negative Thought Patterns
Once you become aware of your thought patterns, you can take proactive steps to shift your mindset and confidently take on life’s challenges. These thought patterns may manifest as self-doubt, fear of failure, or feelings of inadequacy. By becoming aware of these patterns, you can actively work to change your thoughts to be more positive and realistic.
Common negative thinking patterns include:
- Magnifying: blowing things out of proportion and making them seem worse than they actually are
- Polarizing: seeing things as either all good or all bad, with no middle ground
- Catastrophizing: assuming the worst-case scenario will happen
- Personalizing: taking things personally and assuming everything is about you
These negative thinking patterns can be detrimental to one’s mental health and well-being.
Identifying these patterns and replacing them with more positive or neutral self-talk statements can lead to increased self-confidence and improved mental wellbeing, which can help reduce stress, ultimately reducing anxiety and depression.
Remember, the more you practice, the better you will become at recognizing and transforming your negative thoughts into empowering ones, which will help you overcome negative thinking and foster a positive thought.
And the mental and physical health benefits will abound…
The Importance of Positive Self-Talk for Mental Health
There are many studies that now show that if you talk to yourself and make sure that what you say has a positive spin, it can have a significantly helpful effect on the mental and physical tasks you perform.
For instance, a study at Michigan State University indicates that addressing yourself in the third person enables you to feel calmer. Which can come in handy in a trying situation like taking a test or giving an important presentation.
During this study, which involved doing brain scans while folks addressed themselves as though they were talking about somebody else, the researchers discovered that using the third person in self-talk reduced the amount of mental effort necessary for keeping emotions under tighter control.1
The MSU researchers conclude that “third-person self-talk could prove useful for promoting emotional regulation in daily life.”
Self-Talk Improves Physical Performance
Positive self-talk is essential for mental health, as it can increase self-confidence and alleviate anxiety and depression. It can help you counter body dysmorphia, enhance sports performance, and enhance learning, among other benefits. Recognizing that positive self-talk helps, you can boost it by acknowledging your talents, graciously accepting compliments, surrounding yourself with supportive people, and reframing negative talk into neutral or more positive self-talk.
A study in France found that for tennis players, combining mental imagery – picturing yourself serving a tennis ball as though you were watching yourself in a video – with self-talk (which in this case didn’t have to be in the third person) improves the accuracy of where you hit the ball.2 And they note that other studies show that self-talk helps tennis players increase the number of times they win matches.
Getting The Most Out Of Self-Talk
Further research into the uses of self-talk have revealed further refinements for using it to best advantage:
Putting yourself in a positive mood: Research at the University of Missouri-Columbia demonstrates that counting your blessings and telling yourself all the reasons you should be grateful for what you have in your life combined with visualizing yourself at your best can elevate your mood.3
Learn things faster: According to researchers in England, when you are first learning how to perform an activity – such as learning golf and mastering the technique of putting – using self-talk that is “instructional,” which consists of talking yourself step-by-step through what you are learning, can speed your acquisition of the skills you are trying to learn. Their research shows this is particularly well-suited to activities that require precision.4
Lengthen and sharpen your attention span: When you need to be laser-focused on a particular task, think of a gymnast trying to perform a difficult move in front of a huge crowd, researchers in Greece have found that self-talk can increase your ability to stay focused and ignore distractions.5
Eat healthier foods: A study at the University of New Brunswick shows that talking to yourself about the foods you eat can help you consume more fruits and vegetables and reduce your indulgence in junk food. This research shows this may be particularly useful in cutting back on snacking.6
Our take on this is that some of these self-talk techniques are certainly worth a try if you are attempting to adopt a healthier lifestyle. And if you feel self-conscious about talking to yourself in public, there’s an easy fix for that. Just whip out your cellphone and pretend you’re talking to somebody you’ve called. Who’s to know that the person you’re lecturing is not somebody on the other end of the line but yourself!
The Awakening From Alzheimer’s Team