February 3, 2022/Mental Health

Talking to Yourself: Is It Normal?

Self-talk can help reduce stress, increase focus and boost self-esteem

Person talking while looking at their reflection in a mirror

The ideal person for you to talk with while working through life’s many challenges might be closer than you think. (Hint: Just look in a mirror.)

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Self-talk is a healthy way to build motivation, calm nerves or analyze a tricky situation. “It’s a useful way to check in with yourself and organize thoughts and feelings,” says health psychologist Grace Tworek, PsyD.

So, let’s get a conversation started on the topic.

Is self-talk healthy?

The practice of talking to yourself goes by many names. Some call it self-talk. Others refer to it as inner dialogue, inner monologue or inner speech. “There are so many terms for it because it really is just that normal,” notes Dr. Tworek.

So know that it’s OK to sit back and process things through an internal conversation. Taking the time to self-talk can decrease anxiety, boost self-esteem and increase productivity.

“It can be the pep talk you need at the time you need it most,” says Dr. Tworek.

Benefits of talking to yourself

So, what can you get out of a one-on-one chat with yourself? Here are some five potential benefits of self-talk, with sample conversation starters.

Critical thinking

Situational self-talk conversation starter: “How can the day get scheduled to get this to-do list done?”

This type of self-talk can help you break a situation down and organize your thoughts. Dr. Tworek explains it as “internal problem solving,” or a way to make a plan and stay on task moving forward.

Increased focus

Situational self-talk conversation starter: “Keep an eye out for deer on this road.”

An internal conversation engages more areas of your brain, allowing you to better pay attention to what’s happening around you. “Self-talk can be a powerful tool during a situation that requires more concentration,” explains Dr. Tworek.

Stress reduction

Situational self-talk conversation starter: “Take a deep breath. It’s going to be OK.”

An internal monologue can be used to regulate your emotions when a day takes a tough and unexpected turn. Conversations in your head can be calming and help you keep things together. “It’s about telling yourself that everything will be all right.”

Motivation

Situational self-talk conversation starter: “A five-mile run? That’s nothing. Let’s do it!”

Difficult tasks can feel daunting. Giving yourself a little encouragement can build confidence before taking on a challenging task. Studies show that self-talk can help athletes increase performance while in the cauldron of competition.

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A personal check-in

Situational self-talk conversation starter: “What are you doing to yourself here?”

Ever lie in bed with your mind racing? Well, you’re the best person to step in and quiet the chatter in your head. “Tell yourself it’s time to take a break or get up and go in the other room for a few minutes,” suggests Dr. Tworek. “Give yourself permission to step away and relax.”

Tips for productive self-talk

To get the most out of your personal chat with yourself, try these tips:

  1. Refer to yourself by name. Using your name instead of a pronoun allows you to self-distance to better process the conversation. “It gives you a little bit of emotional space,” says Dr. Tworek.
  2. Stay positive. “If you’re negatively talking to yourself, it’s not really going to increase or help your performance,” notes Dr. Tworek. “So don’t be hard on yourself. Instead, try to make the conversation uplifting and productive.”
  3. Emphasize your strengths. You know what you do best, right? Focus on your personal superpowers when you talk to yourself to build confidence and courage in whatever job awaits.

Is it OK to talk to yourself out loud?

There’s no rule that says your “inner dialogue” has to stay inside of your head. Talking to yourself out loud is perfectly normal. In some cases — such as when you’re trying to increase focus — it may even be more beneficial.

Be mindful of your setting, however. Talking to yourself might be ideal when you’re alone in your car or out on a hike, but it’s not as fitting if you’re on a crowded elevator.

“Make sure it’s appropriate for the moment,” says Dr. Tworek.

Can self-talk become a concern?

If self-talk is being driven by hallucinations — meaning you think you’re talking to another source — it’s best to seek out mental health services. Hallucinations could be a sign of conditions like schizophrenia.

“Self-talk needs to come with an awareness that you’re engaging with yourself,” explains Dr. Tworek.

Should you try talking to yourself?

If you’re comfortable doing it, absolutely. There’s something to gain by taking a few minutes to conduct an internal assessment. Think of it as a form of meditation where you gather your thoughts.

“In today’s hectic world, we often don’t take the time to literally just engage with ourselves,” says Dr. Tworek. “Don’t be afraid to get into your own head.”

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