I was doing dishes a week ago and thinking about a particularly difficult situation that a colleague is going through. While contemplating some of the associated policy and rules behind what he would be facing, my wife noticed my lips moving and realized that I was talking to myself. To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed I was doing it at the time. But I admit its a practice I’ve indulged in a lot. And so should you.
During our infant and childhood years, we indulge in self-talk a great deal. Whether it’s to act out whatever game we’re playing or simply to babble on (in my son’s case, he effectively never shuts up whether there’s a person in the room or not), it’s a part of who we are. Our brains don’t differentiate between actively thinking or speaking those thoughts out loud.
However, as we reach adulthood most of us tend to eliminate the practice from our lives or keep a tight lid on it. Maybe from embarrassment or negative correction from a parent or influential person in our lives, there’s a societal stigma against talking to yourself. For the most part, if we see someone talking to themselves we tend to associate it with mental health issues. But believe it or not, it’s perfectly normal to talk to oneself and can actually have some benefits.
According to an article posted by Big Think entitled, “5 reasons talking to yourself is good for you,” they touch on a few of these reasons and they seem to make a lot of sense. Especially when you consider that some of them were taught to me by teachers in high school and college. These reasons include the fact that self-talk can help augment your cognitive performance, helps you to encourage yourself and can be an effective means of talking yourself down.
The article also goes on to explain how self-talk can be a means of developing self-control, but the one that sticks in my mind the most is that it reinforces memory. Whenever I would have difficulty with something I was studying in college, my professors would encourage me to read the material out loud. This helps the reader to retain the information more effectively as it involves an active participation in the absorption of information.
One of my favourite perspectives comes from Dr. Jessica Nicolosi, a clinical psychologist who was quoted in an article by NBCNews.com as saying, “If we speak out loud, it forces us to slow down our thoughts and process them differently because we engage the language centers of our brain.” I’ve noticed this effect when I’m reading bedtime stories to my son. It always seems as though my mind is taking in the words and processing them WAY faster than my mouth can spit them out, and it often causes me to skip over entire paragraphs.
My son’s too clever to let me off the hook and usually has me back it up a notch, but sometimes we need to slow ourselves down and talking to oneself can be an effective way to do it. Just to be clear, we’re talking about an ACTIVE participation in talking to oneself, not the result of a mental health issues or hallucinations. If you decide it’s a good idea to have a conversation with your microwave at two in the morning after eating magic mushrooms, we’re in a different arena of discussion and you should probably re-evaluate your life’s choices.
Talking to yourself can also be an extremely effective way of preparing for something that causes you anxiety. Anytime I’ve had to do something that would involve speaking for long periods in front of people such as giving presentation, providing guided tours or teaching any kind of a session to someone, I’ll usually “present” to myself in order to be prepared to do it to others. This not only acts as a sort of rehearsal before speaking in front of others, it can also allow you top time yourself in real time, since our minds process faster than we speak.
The bottom line is that talking to yourself is not only normal, it’s healthy. It can lend a number of benefits and even though most people don’t admit to it, almost everybody does it. My grandfather always used to say that it’s perfectly fine to talk to yourself… as long as you don’t start answering yourself! ☯