We are our own worst critics. When stressful situations arise, that nagging little voice in our heads loves to kick up the NST (negative self talk). The result? Mental and physical stress that can hurt our health. But, a new study by two universities in Michigan says a simple technique can help us fight back against that unhealthy NST.
Coach yourself... a/k/a talk in the third-person.
The study showed when people talk to themselves in the third person, they essentially create psychological distance from the stressful situation, enabling them to better control negative emotions. And, while our culture tends to make fun of people who publicly speak about themselves in the third person (i.e. pro athletes), here's what one researcher explained as the reason it's good to do it in our heads:
"Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain," says Jason Moser, associate professor of psychology. "That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions."
Additionally, research showed talking to yourself in third person takes no more mental effort than in first person, as weird as it may seem at first.
Why is this important?
Since many other emotional regulation strategies, such as mindfulness and positive thinking, require a lot of mental effort and concentration, this method for coping with emotional issues could be much faster and easier to implement.
How can you use it?
The next time you are stressed out, take a minute to say, "Why is (insert your name) stressed out?" You'll notice your brain starting to analyze the situation more objectively. Write down the facts and then imagine this was a close friend or relative. How would you coach them in this situation? You'll find yourself having more empathy and understanding for yourself in the third person. The NST gets put in check because you'll realize how unfair and bias the NST is. Not only will you see solutions faster, you'll be able to craft some positive responses to help calm yourself down - just like you would do for a friend or family member.
Next time you're scared or angry, try it. It's free and it could help you live longer. Stress is a huge killer (particularly, on Monday mornings). A technique as easy as this one is worth a shot!