Chances are you talk to yourself throughout the day whether you’re aware of it or not—everything from “I’m going to be late!” to “I love this dress” to “I’m so behind at work” have likely crossed your mind pretty often. But have you have ever said such phrases out loud? If you answered yes, you’re on the right side of science—there are actually loads of benefits of talking to yourself.
It turns out that expressing some inner thoughts out loud can actually help you better conquer the present and future and is something we should all start doing, according to Lisa Ferentz, clinical social worker, psychotherapist, and author of the book Finding Your Ruby Slippers: Transformative Life Lessons From the Therapist’s Couch. Ferentz employs this practice most often when it comes to helping her clients develop a positive outlook about themselves and the day ahead. “There’s nothing more important than the way we talk to ourselves because that inner monologue informs in subtle and not-so-subtle ways all our subsequent thoughts, emotional states, and behavioral choices,” she says. Simply put, if you’re constantly critical, judgmental, or facing the day with a negative attitude, you’re making it pretty hard for yourself to encounter positivity down the line.
A good way to adopt a healthy mental state is to write down what you’re grateful for, your own strengths, and positive affirmations; then stand in front of a mirror and say those things out loud. If you feel silly, don’t give up. “Like anything else, once you practice and approach it from a positive place, you discover it’s quite easy to do. It guides our life whether we’re conscious of it or not,” says Ferentz. In fact, one study from the University of Lethbridge found that students who were taught how to engage in positive versus negative self-talk were able to change their perspectives, attitudes, and reactions. Sure enough, talking to yourself is one of the signs you’re actually smarter than you realize.
Ferentz also encourages people to whisper aloud pep talks or explore their thoughts and feelings heading into a potentially intimidating, threatening, or overwhelming situation. “When we whisper positively to ourselves it gives us a little more strength and courage so we can meet a challenging scenario head on,” she says. That sentiment echoes research that has found athletes are often fans of self-talk ahead of competitions.
That doesn’t mean you can’t mutter aloud your frustrations, too. Just like there’s a place for positive self-talk, there’s also a place for negative if you approach it the right way. “There’s definitely a value to understanding what you’re feeling whether it’s positive or negative. Saying negative thoughts out loud can be very validating,” says Ferentz. “Bringing the negative stuff you’re thinking and feeling to the surface then gives you the opportunity to reevaluate it.” Once you voice what’s bothering you, try asking yourself if it’s useful to keep holding on to those thoughts or if it’s something you can process and then let go of.
So next time you hold a little two-way conversation with yourself, don’t worry, it’s perfectly OK—just like these other habits you think are weird that are actually normal.