Wellness | Why it's important to harness that self-chatter

HUGE: Ethan Kross says many of us are self-talking ourselves into a funk. Picture: Shutterstock
HUGE: Ethan Kross says many of us are self-talking ourselves into a funk. Picture: Shutterstock

Who are you talking to? There's only the two of us here.

Well, myself.

Ah, yes - the only way to guarantee intelligent conversation.

Actually, I'm doing "distanced self-talk".

It's a tool for controlling your negative internal chatter.

Sounds like you and yourself should stop bothering each other, rather than continuing the conversation. Maybe talk to your plants instead.

Not a bad idea, as it happens. But first, let me provide some context.

I've just read the new book Chatter: The Voice in Our Head and How to Harness It by Ethan Kross, a US experimental psychologist and neuroscientist.

He studies people's internal talk, trying to understand why some of us act as our own cheer squad while the inner voices of others form the mental equivalent of a fruit-hurling lynch mob.

I've always thought how interesting it would be if our internal voices appeared in a speech bubble over our heads.

There wouldn't be a bubble big enough.

Kross quotes a study saying we talk to ourselves at an astonishing rate of 4000 words per minute.

As comparison, a 6000-word speech normally takes an hour.

That is a lot of chatter. Just as well there's a captive audience.

And there's Kross's point. Often, we're self-talking ourselves into a funk.

Too much internal blabber can be mentally exhausting.

While reflection can be healthy, excessive rumination, brooding and mulling can spiral into negative cycles with detrimental consequences for our mental and physical health.

Kross even suggests that negative introspection can contribute to faster ageing.

He provides tools to quieten the inner chorus.

Such as?

First, don't always assume it's useful to think things through - especially after the event. Second: find ways to gain perspective.

Spend time in nature (and yes that could mean chatting with your plants instead). Write your problems down and read them later to see how they've diminished over time. And create distance by talking to yourself out loud as if you were another person.

Kross says it can calm you and help reframe difficult emotions.

What were you saying to yourself just now?

I've completely forgotten.

But it was really important. I was getting quite annoyed with me for not listening.

Doesn't seem to matter now.

I think you've just proved the professor's point perfectly.

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