Talking to Yourself: a Sign of Psychological Health

21 February, 2021
Talking alone can help us improve attention, concentration and reach the success criterion of a task. However, it can also help us in other cognitive and psychological processes. Learn more here!

Talking to yourself is not crazy. In fact, quite the contrary! Internal self-talk out loud can be tremendously useful when we’re carrying out a task or want to remember something important.

People who talk to themselves indeed tend to hide it, as it can be stigmatizing and perhaps a target for stares. However, studies tell us that it can be very beneficial to our mental health.

Talking to ourselves helps us to concentrate, to memorize, to make decisions and to distance ourselves from our mental contents.

It’s common for this private speech to be seen especially in younger children. When we’re young, we never stop learning new things. This learning sometimes forces us to give ourselves self-instruction to better consolidate the information.

Also, if we have to carry out a task that we’ve just learned and in which we aren’t experts, it’s very common to let ourselves be guided by our own private speech.

Self-instruction training

A woman thinking to herself.
The objective of self-instruction training is to modify the internal dialogue to help deal with a specific situation.

In 1969, psychologist Meichembaum designed a cognitive technique called “Self-Instruction Training”. Its objective is to modify the person’s internal dialogue to facilitate coping with a given task, situation, or event.

It’s generally used when what the individual says to themself is interfering or inappropriate for the execution of a specific task, or to adequately deal with a situation.

It can be used with all types of populations, from children to adults. The key is to learn to talk to oneself, either out loud or covertly to achieve optimal coping with a task.

The procedure consists of different phases. In each phase, the person has to verbalize a self-instruction that leads to better handling of that particular step.

Phases of talking to yourself

  • Problem definition: “What do I have to do? I have to know what exactly I have to do.”
  • Problem approach: “What do I have to perform this task? I have to take them all into account when I start working.”
  • Focusing attention: “I have to pay attention only to what I’m doing right now and try not to get distracted by anything else.”
  • Self-reinforcement: “I have to congratulate myself for the things I am doing well.”
  • Verbalizations to cope with mistakes: “If I make a mistake, I can try to correct it. If I don’t succeed, the next time I try, I’ll try to do better.”
  • Self-evaluation: “I have to look at how I am doing.”
  • Self-reinforcement: “I have to congratulate myself when I’ve done the job well.”

Self-instruction training is effective for multiple psychological disorders such as ADHD in which the patient has difficulty focusing and maintaining attention on a goal. However, it can also benefit the general population, as it increases concentration and therefore efficiency.

You may also be interested in: How to Approach ADHD Effectively

Other processes that improve by talking to yourself

As we’ve just mentioned, talking to yourself can help us to improve attention, concentration and reach the success criterion of a task.

However, it can also help us in other cognitive and psychological processes, such as:

Memory

A woman with some notes.
Memory benefits when we talk to ourselves. Hearing ourselves makes us retain information more easily.

Studies show that studying a lesson out loud helps to retain it better in memory. This occurs because the fact of hearing ourselves out loud causes that content to be recorded aurally.

When we need to retrieve that information, we’re likely to hear our internal voice verbalize it as if it were an audiotape. Therefore, speaking only aloud about a topic could be beneficial for students or people who are preparing a paper or a talk to an audience.

Decision Making

Talking alone can help us in making decisions about a complex problem. Putting our thoughts into words, out loud, allows us to gain perspective on them.

When we verbalize all the options we have about a circumstance, we can better sort through the information, discard thoughts that interfere with decision making, and reach our solution quickly and efficiently.

Self-reinforcement

Designing positive phrases for oneself and verbalizing them can also be useful for our psychological health. It’s very important that when we manage to do something we had set out to do, we self-reinforce ourselves.

This improves our self-esteem and encourages us to keep challenging ourselves. For example, if you’ve been preparing for a competitive examination for a long time, and finally pass and get a position, it’s very beneficial to allow ourselves, for example, to say: You’ve done very well, you deserve it!

Discover: How to Have a Positive Attitude in an Adverse Situation

Improves social skills

A group of friends talking.
Talking to yourself increases self-confidence and, in turn, strengthens social skills.

Talking to ourselves helps us to train our social skills. These skills are important because they allow us to relate healthily to our environment.

Therefore, speaking alone in front of a mirror, practicing the tone of voice, what we’re going to say, what phrase we are going to choose, etc., is a good assertiveness rehearsal that allows us to get experience before exposing ourselves to real interpersonal situations.

It helps with purely obsessional OCD

Purely obsessional compulsive disorder is a disorder that doesn’t have compulsions of a mental or motor nature. In these cases, scientists have found that talking to oneself brings many benefits.

The fact of verbalizing the obsessions several times a day makes the patient get used to their thoughts and anxiety decreases. In this sense, talking to oneself alone isn’t “crazy” at all, it’s even a valuable therapeutic tool.

Conclusions on talking to yourself

Now you have some valid reasons to allow yourself to talk to yourself from time to time, without judging yourself and without fear of judgment.

Private self-talk is beneficial on a psychological level and practicing it can help us both in day-to-day cognitive processes and if we suffer from some kind of psychological disorder.

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