Is Talking to Yourself Healthy?

Is Talking to Yourself Healthy?

A midday pep talk is totally normal, but talking down to yourself is anything but.

If you find yourself chattering out loud, you’re not alone. This is a fairly common practice known as external self-talk. It’s possible people talk to themselves every few days, and some people may even do it every hour.

“Even though it's seen as eccentric or quirky, it's something that's fairly common in just about all of us,” says Peter Thomas, PhD, a licensed psychologist with Medical City McKinney in McKinney, Texas.

Self-talk, or the dialogue you have with yourself, can be internal, too. You might be familiar with the voice inside your head that helps talk you through big decisions, or constantly reminds you of your mistakes. That internal voice is hard at work producing an average of 60,000 thoughts each day.

People talk to themselves, in their minds and out loud, for a number of different reasons. Find out the pros and cons of talking to yourself, plus ways self-talk can benefit you.

The benefits of a one-sided conversation
Positive self-talk can be a powerful tool to help you learn, improve your mental focus—and as one study suggests—positive thinking, a form of internal self-talk, may even help you live longer.

Talking to yourself can boost self-confidence and improve your ability to complete certain tasks. One small study of 46 tennis players suggests a correlation between self-talk, self-efficacy, a person’s confidence in his or her ability to perform a job, and performance. Participants who practiced self-talk while engaging in a particular stroke increased their self-efficacy, which translated to a better performance.

The benefits of talking to yourself stretch beyond the court and into your everyday life. Research suggests positive self-talk can reduce anxiety and depression, and boost self-esteem. 

Talking to yourself can also help you learn and retain ideas. If you’re trying to learn something new, you might want to try explaining it to yourself out loud. People who do this are able to retain three times more information than those who don’t, suggests one study.

Not all self-talk is productive, and negative thoughts and spoken words can be destructive to the health of your mind and body.

The ugly side of gabbing to yourself
Roughly 95 percent of our thoughts are repeated day after day. A whopping 80 percent of those thoughts are negative, so it can be easy to slip into a cycle of talking down to yourself.  

One study conducted over an eight-year period suggests that positive thinkers were at a decreased risk of dying from cancer, stroke and heart disease, compared to their less optimistic counterparts. Other research revealed negative self-talk can stimulate parts of the brain that have been linked to anxiety and depression.  

Negative self-talk may also hinder weight loss. Beating yourself up over a dietary misstep or missed gym session may lead to overeating, if you allow your emotions get the better of you.

The key takeaway: Be mindful of how you speak to yourself and reap the benefits of positive self-talk.

Make the most of your motor mouth
Are you your own worst critic? If your self-talk is constantly negative, that’s not healthy. “I stress the importance of the way you talk to yourself,” says Thomas.

Here are three proven ways to get the most out of your internal monologue.

  • Say it out loud—even if it feels weird. External self-talk can be beneficial for people who struggle to remember things, like where you set down your keys.
    “If you say things out loud, it brings to mind a visual representation of what you're looking for,” says Thomas. “It can actually jog some of the memories in your brain, and help you find that stuff a little bit easier.”
  • Speak in the third person. This is especially helpful when working through a difficult situation. Talking to yourself out loud puts distance between you and the situation. Speaking to yourself in the third person or calling yourself by name can increase that distance.
    “This can trigger your brain to actually think about a situation differently,” says Thomas.
  • Be kind to yourself. Negative thoughts can be all consuming, so urge yourself to think positively. Repeating positive statements or thinking affirmative thoughts can actually help you manage everyday stresses in a more productive way.

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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