It appears that talking to one's self has gotten a bad rap. While once perhaps viewed as crazy, people who talk to themselves do a better job at quickly bringing down their stress levels. The trick is to hold your conversations in the third person.

Legendary psychologist, Ethan Kross, researches self-talk, the conversations we hold inside our heads, as well as the things we say to ourselves out loud. Kross has found that people who talk to themselves in language other than the first-person experience reduced stress and can better cope with nerve-wracking situations.

Sound bizarre? Sure, getting caught talking to yourself is beyond embarrassing, but hey, if it reduces your stress, why not give it a try?

I've often heard professionals say, "I can help other people, but I can't seem to help myself in the same way." I'll bet they don't talk to themselves in the third person. Third person self-talk allows us to offer ourselves the sage advice we may offer a friend who's in duress.

In recent studies, researchers hypothesized that third-person self-talk leads people to think about the themselves as they think of others, which provides them with the psychological distance needed to facilitate self-control. As a result, scientists discovered that, "Using one's own name to refer to the self during introspection, rather than the first-person pronoun 'I', increases peoples' ability to control their thoughts, feelings, and behavior under stress".

In related studies, researchers recruited participants to recall painful autobiographical memories. Some used "I" when referring to themselves, others used their own name. Participants who recalled the memories with "I" statements reported much higher distress than those who referred to themselves in the third person, or by using their name.

While the study speaks to self-control, it does not reveal the importance of the actual words we choose when we address ourselves in these conversations. I think it's an important point to make. The genes that regulate physical and emotional stress are strongly influenced by our words. A single word holds the power to affect your state of mind: negatively or positively. When you call yourself names and use unpleasant language, your body releases dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. Angry words will even limit your use of logic and reason because the areas of the brain associated with these abilities will partially shut down.

Odds are, you would not call a friend an idiot or stupid (or worse) when they come to you for emotional support. Be kind to yourself; articulate your concerns and offer supportive advice, just as you would a friend, child, or client.

Published on: Oct 9, 2017