Is talking to yourself a sign of senility, insanity or good mental health?
My mother, tongue in cheek, used to say, “You can talk to yourself, but if you answer back you’re in trouble!” She was joking of course, but I have had a few individuals coming to therapy who worried about being “crazy” or demented because they talk to themselves frequently throughout the day.
Well, the consensus is that talking to yourself can be a sign of a healthy state of mind. In an experiment by professors Gary Lupyan and Daniels Swigley, the act of crystalizing your thoughts through self-talk found that verbal clues tend to produce mental pictures, which helps people function more quickly.
In another experiment by the same researchers, they showed 20 volunteers pictures of various objects and were asked to find one of those objects — a banana. Half were allowed to say banana to themselves aloud (the experimental group). The other half were instructed to say nothing at all (the control group) They found that the group members allowed to talk to themselves found the fruit a little faster than those who were forced to remain silent. They speculated that talking to yourself quickened the volunteers’ pace and they were able to discover the banana faster than the control group.
The researchers indicated that just as children augmented their thinking through self-talk, adults can benefit from using language to clarify their own thoughts as well as to communicate.
Most of us tend to have this inner critic who rails against our mistakes and mishaps. This inner critic affects behavior and our self-esteem, which tends to result in negative outcomes. There are definite advantages to positive self-talk, one of which is decreasing loneliness. It can make a person smarter! It helps clarify actions and firm up decisions to be made. There is one caveat, though, and researchers stress this: Talk to yourself respectfully. If you’re demeaning yourself with negative remarks the process can damage your sense of self. Instead of saying to yourself, “You idiot, why did you do that,” counter with “We all make mistakes sometimes” and investigate ways of improving your response and congratulate yourself on being a good problem solver.
The philosopher Rene Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore I am.” Your life will follow your beliefs about yourself and produce the same behavioral response. So, be your own best friend and your life will follow that course.
In my church we have a saying which I use frequently: “Thoughts in mind produce after their kind.” Go gentle on yourself and watch the success happen in your life
Some of the benefits of positive self-talk are reassuring. It helps clarifies your thoughts and results in clearing the fog of indecision. You can act with confidence since you’ve already “discussed” the matter with yourself and come up with an answer that suits you.
A second benefit, according to recent research, is those who talk to themselves tend to be smarter. A great number of geniuses are known to self-talk. It also helps an individual stay focused. It keeps your thought patterns on track and you don’t become distracted; i.e., daydreaming.
Vocalizing aloud can result in better ideas and plans help stimulate innovative and creative solutions and it boosts your confidence.So, the next time you are faced with a problem, complicated situation or dilemma, start talking to yourself and answers will come to your awareness in surprising ways.
Diane Daniels is a retired mental health professional and a volunteer with Citrus County United Way. You may reach her to offer topics that are of interest to you at email@example.com.