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The Benefits of Positive Self-Talk

Some say that talking to yourself means you’re crazy. It isn't true.

We have all heard that if you talk to yourself, you’re crazy, but that’s not always the case. According to research published by the American Psychological Association, talking to yourself in a positive way is actually very healthy for your psyche.

My first exposure to positive self-talk (PST) was reading The Little Engine That Could. Do you remember that book from your childhood? While trying to make it up a big hill, the little engine keeps saying to himself “I think I can, I think I can,” and of course, he did it. It’s a valuable lesson for children—really, for people of all ages—to learn and remember.

Positive self-talk is one of the most valuable tools you can use to keep yourself emotionally and mentally balanced. Many Olympic and professional athletes use it every time they practice or compete. I’ve seen it used by rock stars, movie stars, star surgeons—and I use it on a daily basis myself.

Positive self-talk is also a great way to self-soothe, and you can use it anywhere. It can help dial back the anxiety and depression from your moods, and it’s a simple method of building self-esteem. The real beauty is that all these things happen at the same time when you say positive things to yourself.

When it comes to positive self-talk, the simpler the better: My own personal favorite is “I’m okay.” Back when I was in the movie business, I used to hang out with the stunt team and always marveled at how they could fall down a flight of stairs and not even break a fingernail. I was told that the secret was to stay loose and talk to your body.

I had the chance to try it out one day — no, not as a stunt man. My apartment was on the second floor of a duplex, and one rainy day I slipped on the top step and started tumbling down. The only thing I could think of doing was what the stunt people said: “Stay loose.” And I did. I talked to my body and told it we were okay.

I fell down two flights of steps, talking to myself this way. At the bottom, I was flat on my back, wet, and scared, but I started trying to figure out what to do next. Checking out how I was feeling as I lay there, I noticed no sharp pains and I could wiggle my toes and fingers. Gradually the feeling came back into my body, and I slowly rolled to my side and began standing up.

Much to my surprise I was just fine and went into the house to shower. I believe to this day that it was the positive self-talk that helped keep me from being seriously injured. I had used it before but never in an emergency situation, and it worked beautifully.

Besides possibly saving your life, positive self-talk can help you calm down from anxiety and feel less sad when you are depressed. When I wake up and say to myself, “Hi Barton. You're going to have a good day today,” I am programming my brain to feel good. If you do it throughout the day, fewer things will bother you, and you may become more friendly with yourself and others.

References

Kross, E., Bruehlman-Senecal, E., Park, J., Burson, A., Dougherty, A., Shablack, H., Bremner, R., Moser, J., & Ayduk, O. (2014). Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(2), 304–324. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035173

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