It seems that self-talk, the endless “stream of consciousness” that runs around inside everyone’s minds every day, is actually an incredibly powerful tool. The University of Toronto Scarborough discovered last month that a connection exists between inner dialogue and the ability to control impulsive behaviour.
The U of T study, published in Acta Psychologia, finds that self-talk, either aloud or internal, leads to greater self-control. Since it fills the purpose of “regulating reasoning and problem-solving”, self-talk is automatic and hard to suppress.
“We give ourselves messages all the time with the intent of controlling ourselves—whether that’s telling ourselves to keep running when we’re tired, to stop eating even though we want one more slice of cake, or to refrain from blowing up on someone in an argument,” said Alexa Tullett, a researcher at the University of Toronto. “Our research suggests that people can use their inner voice to curb unwanted impulses, like outbursts of rage.”
The research involved having two groups of people performing the same tasks, with one group abstaining from using their “inner voices” by continuously repeating a word inside their minds. People in the group who were not able to talk to themselves exercised less self-control and were more likely to use impulsive behaviour.
Tullett is interested in extending the research to other scenarios. “It would be fascinating to see whether the inner voice plays a role in people’s perseverance when running on a treadmill, or in their ability to resist greasy foods,” said Tullett. According to her, the next step would be to discover what kinds of self-talk would help to control an individual’s actions.
Self-talk is essential to identifying and interpreting feelings and perception, and allows people to tell themselves what to do and how to behave in different situations.
The regulation of one’s own thinking is very important. Studies have shown that a person’s thinking has a huge effect on emotion and behaviour, as well as outlook and self-image. If a person’s self-talk is mostly negative, that person is likely a pessimistic individual. Those who have positive self-talk are more likely to be optimistic and enjoy more health benefits, including an increased life span, lower rates of depression, lower levels of stress, and increased psychological and physiological health.
Positive self-talk also leads to greater overall productivity, effective stress management, and stronger resistance to colds. Having positive self-talk does not mean that one ignores the unpleasantness of life, but that one sees it in a more productive light instead of believing that they have no control over what happens.
By learning to turn negative thinking into positive thinking, anyone can reap these benefits. Studies show that in order to do that, a person must focus on the positive (instead of naturally filtering it out and maximizing their failures), surround themselves with positive people, and practice intentional positive thinking.
Writing in a journal is an extremely effective way to examine the inner voice and thought patterns. Also, using positive affirmations such as, “I am loved, capable, and special”, “I am healthy and worry-free”, and “I see the best in everyone I meet”, leads to greater confidence and stress reduction, making it clear that inner dialogue and positive statements are powerful messages.
Continuously practicing positive self-talk can lead to greater optimism and improve overall your health and outlook on life.