3 Reasons Why Talking to Yourself May Actually be Good for You

Turns out having a natter in the mirror has its benefits.

Emily Wilcox
Oct 16 · 7 min read
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Photo by Charis Gegelman on Unsplash

“Where on Earth did I leave my keys?” You mutter this to yourself as you rummage round your living room, slightly irked that, once again, you’re going to be late for your breakfast date. “Are my keys over there? Or up there? Sigh! Keys, keys, keys. Where are you keys?”

Within a handful of seconds (and a handful of Sofa Stuff™ having just slipped your fingers down the crack between the cushions. Honestly, there’s a whole dystopian civilisation crammed in there) you’ve found them. Hooray! Congrats! Good on ya, kid!

Meanwhile and unbeknownst to you, your breakfast date has also lost his keys. He’s fumbling around his apartment this very moment hunting for them and it takes him an extra forty minutes before they materialise. You’ve been waiting for him for thirty-eight of those (at what point does breakfast become lunch?). It took him a lot longer, all because he wasn’t talking himself through the process, like you.

Sounds odd — both theoretically and in practise, if there are people around — but it works. Talking to yourself is beneficial, in a manner of ways. Just take a look and see.

Speaking to Yourself Boosts Your Brain Functions

Things like memory, awareness, focus. A psychological study conducted in 2011, researching the effects of self-directed speech, found that speaking aloud improves our ability to locate items. The experiment was separated into two trials, in which the first began with participants searching for given objects without talking. During the second trial, they were told to repeat the name of the object out loud to themselves whilst they looked. There was a clear winner.

The second trial was quicker. The audible guidance of participants towards themselves strengthened the link between the name of the item and the item itself. Meaning they were connecting language to visuals and calling up on their memory. What this shows us is that, essentially, the more you say the name of the thing you are looking for, the more you are reminding yourself of its existence, visualising it in your mind, and therefore, as a result, you are much more likely to spot it.

You are heightening your awareness and thus narrowing your focus — because your mind is completely immersed within this task. Telling yourself what you’re looking for is like you’re self-activating your brain with a verbal command. A cranial conversation, if you will.

It Improves Your Ability to Find Solutions

We’ve all told our best pals to dump the boy! You’re way too good for him! Just wait for Robert Pattinson to come along, like me. We’ve all lobbed out a little advice to people, solicited or otherwise, in the hopes of helping them fix their situation.

When it comes to other people’s issues, we’re like Bob the Builder for Brains (can we fix it? Hot damn, we can). We listen to them, we absorb all the details and then, over a slice of pineapple pizza (don’t start) we offer our solution. Unfortunately, as a species, we have a tendency to not do the same for ourselves. Why is this? It’s not because we don’t trust our advice or abilities, but because we don’t grant ourselves the same opportunity to utilise them.

The key difference here is; with others, we hear them out first. We listen to the full problem before we dive in. But for our own obstacles, we barely give ourselves a mere glimpse of our thoughts. They remain as abstract, hazy clouds in our mind that we desperately try to blow away in order to clear the fog. But that doesn’t work. It didn’t then and it won’t now. Which is why you need to talk to yourself.

“Explaining processes to yourself aloud can help you see solutions and work through problems, since it helps you focus on each step. Asking yourself questions, even simple or rhetorical ones — ”If I put this piece here, what happens?” can also help you concentrate on the task at hand.” — Healthline.

It’s like your voice-box is a filter. A stringent editor, sifting through your thoughts as they zip down your brain lane and out your mouth, selecting only the ones that are of relevance to the situation. When you self-chat, you’re providing yourself with the useful information that will aid in your search for a remedy. You’re activating a separate section of your brain — one that would remain dormant if you were merely thinking — and you’re speaking it through, then absorbing the information back, as though you were listening to a friend. It pinpoints your focus on the situation at hand, so that all your energy and effort can be channelled there.

After all, you’re looking to solve a mystery here. And no Holmes can solve anything without consulting his Watson. So why not be both?

It’s a Bloody Nice Thing to Do

Now more than ever, when we are told to steer clear of any other humans, we should look towards ourselves for comfort. Turns out the apocalypse is the perfect opportunity to get to know yourself better — not like there’s anything else to do, right?

Sure, everybody professes the importance of positive self-talk and inner kindness, but everybody also knows that it’s not always that easy. We’re good people, us lot. Radiating warmth and light and goodness. But when it comes to our own self, we can get pretty nasty. We retain our darkness inside of us and direct it towards ourselves. It’s easy to do because it requires no effort. Darkness is a pre-existing thing and light requires energy. We’re not always a big fan of expelling energy (I will not search for the remote if I’ve lost it. Not even by chanting it’s name aloud. I’m staying still, staying put, and if I have to sit through another old episode of Fraser, so be it).

But there is a way. Talking to ourselves, out loud, is the simplest, gentlest, most efficient way of bringing a little kindness into our lives. And you don’t even break a sweat. In doing so, you get to know what’s going on inside you a little better. You begin to understand your own motivations, your inspirations, your purpose. By saying them to yourself, you bring them to life, you validate them and, as a result, you become your own motivation and inspiration and purpose. These are the best ways to do so:

  • Use positive terminology. Re-frame the things you say to yourself, whether they’re about the world around you, or just you. Turn degrading, negative comments into uplifting, positive ones. And then believe in them.
  • Use the second or third person. A 2014 study on self-talk found that altering the perspective enhances the effectiveness of what you’re saying. Switching from “I’ve got this!” to “you’ve got this!” allows your mind to see the scenario from a different angle, an external perception, as though you’re talking to a friend. It distances itself from the context, meaning you’re no longer as absorbed by it and therefore able to observe it from a neutral place.
  • Ask yourself questions. Why? (Get it?). Because it triggers the opportunity for you to then go back and answer your own question. Ask yourself “why are you feeling this?” “what do you want?” “how can you make this better?” and then find the answer. Until you verbalise it, until you let yourself hear it and trigger your brain into action, you won’t ever know.

Chatting to yourself is a way of reading your own story. It’s an opportunity for reflection. And with reflection comes clarity (unless you haven’t wiped your mirror in eight years).

No, You’re Not Crazy

I mean; you might be. But not because you’re chatting to yourself. Because honestly there are boundless reasons to do so, whether they’re practical or simply for fun (let’s not pretend like we haven’t all sat on the loo, chattering away as though we’re being interviewed on the Graham Norton show).

It might seem a little weird at first. Feel a little uncomfortable. Sure, you’ll get some odd looks from your cat and that stranger down the cheese aisle in Aldi might hurry away, stat — but that’s okay. You’re not focused on them, after all. You’re talking to yourself. They can mind their own business.

And as for you, well, listen. Go take yourself off for a conversation. Trust me, after a little adjusting to it, you’ll see why. The benefits will bubble to the surface and finally somebody will listen to you talk about your plans to start a new line of wicker underwear. Give it a try. I reckon it’s time you sit yourself down, whip out a travel mirror, look yourself straight in the eye and say, out loud; “I think we need a chat.”

But in a good, less break-uppy way.

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Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Emily Wilcox

Written by

I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer.

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

Emily Wilcox

Written by

I imagine in a parallel universe I might be a caricaturist or a botanist or somewhere asleep on the moon — but here, I am a writer.

Mind Cafe

Relaxed, inspiring essays about happiness.

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