Talking to Yourself Can Actually Be a Good Thing
When done in your head, in the third person
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2017 5:44 PM CDT
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Third person self-talk helps relieve stress, researchers say.   (Getty Images/m-imagephotography)

(Newser) – Talking to yourself doesn't mean you're crazy. In fact, the habit might be downright smart. That's the takeaway from a new study in Scientific Reports, which involved two separate experiments. In the first, researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan monitored the brain activity of 29 students who were asked to review neutral and disturbing images and talk about how they felt while referring to themselves in the first and third persons, reports Today. In the second, researchers asked 50 participants to internally reflect on painful experiences in the same way. In both cases, "third person self-talk" allowed participants to better regulate their emotions to relieve stress, researchers say. "It kind of switches you to a different mode of experiencing negative emotions when you use your name rather than the word, 'I,'" says the lead researcher.

Indeed, when students were met with disturbing images, activity in the regions of the brain involving emotions decreased within one second of third person self-talk, reports Newsweek. Both experiments also showed referring to oneself in the third person required no more effort than referring to oneself in the first person and much less effort than other forms of emotion regulation, like positive thinking. With third person self-talk, "it's like you're viewing [a situation] from an outsider perspective" and gaining "a tiny bit of psychological distance," researcher Jason Moser explains, per a release. "It really does help." An example, he says, would be to tell yourself, "Jason is really scared" and explain why during a stress-inducing situation. Moser even says psychologists should recommend it for those struggling with anxiety and stress. (Hearing voices might not be bad, either.)

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