“Writing is like talking to yourself, just in a way that makes it look like you’re not crazy,” wrote Goodreads contributor Mary Kate.
Most of us acknowledge journaling as a healthy and powerful activity – so why do we see its verbal equivalent as a sign we’re becoming unhinged?
As it turns out, self-talk is not only normal. It’s beneficial. Here are four reasons why:
1. We focus more effectively when we speak about what we’re doing.
By talking yourself through your work, you are making the decision to concentrate on that task exclusively. It’s hard to fall victim to distraction when you are speaking. Verbalizing your actions helps you to stay on track and think logically about your next steps. It can also help you to navigate any problems that arise, and to maintain perspective when you encounter unexpected challenges. This is a great strategy to employ with tasks that you might find to be uninteresting, tedious, or intimidating.
2. Verbalizing our inner dialogue helps us to control it.
The problem with negative self-talk is that it’s often so quiet we fail to take notice. It eats away at our self-esteem and becomes our deeply held belief about ourselves. We might not even realize we see ourselves as stupid, lazy, ugly, or unkind – instead, these beliefs manifest in a lack of self-esteem and in self-destructive habits. However, we can’t ignore what we actively verbalize. Listen to your thoughts out loud for a day, and be intentional in challenging any negative beliefs. I’m too stupid to figure that out, you might hear yourself saying. Verbalizing this thought allows you to recognize it and correct it. No, I’m not, you’ll answer back. I just need to work a little bit harder. As Gino Norris wrote, “Your self-talk is the channel of behavior change.”
3. Self-talk has been shown to improve memory.
According to a study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, a person who speaks to themselves while trying to find a lost object will locate it more quickly than one who does not. This is a result of the focus described above, as well as other factors. When we verbalize a problem, we use more of our brain to concentrate on it. We are also more inclined to remember the things we say and do than the things we simply think. When we speak to ourselves, we engage several parts of the brain to process relevant information, rather than just one or two.
4. Self-talk facilitates self-improvement.
Talking to yourself gives you the chance to encourage your subconscious from the outside. Often, we consciously want to reach certain goals, but we become slowed or stopped by a lack of subconscious co-operation. When we speak to ourselves, we give direction and motivation. Use positive affirmations. Define the person you want to be. Then, verbalize your goals to make them real. Look yourself in the mirror each morning and establish your goals for the day. There’s something powerful about meeting your own eye and saying “Today, I will be brave. I will ask my boss for a raise/improve my mile time/invite my neighbor to coffee.” Self-talk allows you to commit to yourself in a concrete way, rather than simply hoping for the best.
“Either you must control your thoughts or the outside forces will control them and be warned that the outside forces usually consist of fears, worries and doubts,” wrote Maddy Malhotra. When you speak to yourself, you take charge of your inner dialogue. This inner dialogue becomes your voice, your actions, your decisions, your interactions with the world – all the things that make you who you are. This is how you process emotions. This is how you solve complex problems and make important choices in your life. If being intentional in controlling these things makes me crazy, then maybe I don’t want to be sane!