The 5 Types of Self-Talk Your Brain Likes Best

Types SelfTalk Brain Likes Best

Self-deprecation might keep you grounded sometimes, but your brain also needs different types of self-talk to thrive, and be in a positive space.

One night I got caught in a harrowing blizzard in a remote area of the North Carolina Mountains without snow tires or four-wheel drive. I couldn’t stop or pull off the road, and my car was skidding on ice. Clutching the steering wheel, I had to drive another 30 miles straight up steep treacherous mountain curves.

At first, I heard my judgment’s reprimands, I hope you’re satisfied, dummy. You’ve done it now. Before the harshness escalated, I was aware that my judgment had tangled up with me like a ball of yarn. I took a deep breath, moved into coaching myself with kindness, Okay Bryan, easy does it. You’ve got this. You’re going to be just fine. Just breathe. That’s right, Bryan, just keep it on the road. Awesome job!

There was a time when people who talked to themselves were considered “crazy.” Now, experts consider self-talk to be one of the most effective therapeutic tools available. Obviously, I made it home safely because I’m here to tell the story. I believe I survived because of the way I spoke to myself.

The science of self-talk has shown time and again that how we use self-talk makes a big difference. Negative, survive talk can lead to anxiety and depression. Positive, thrive talk can mitigate dysfunctional mental states and cultivate healthier states of mind.

Here Are The 5 Types Of Self-Talk Your Brain Likes Best

1. Self-Distancing

Research shows silently referring to ourselves by name instead of as “I,” gives us psychological distance from the primitive parts of our brain. It allows us to talk to ourselves the way we might speak to someone else. The survival mind’s story isn’t the only story. And the thrive mind has a chance to shed a different light on the scenario.

The language of separation allows you to process an internal event as if it happened to someone else. First-name self-talk or referring to yourself as “you,” shifts focus away from your primitive brain’s inherent egocentrism. Studies show this practice lowers anxiety, gives us self-control, cultivates wisdom over time, and puts the brakes on the negative voices that restrict possibilities.

University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross conducted research into the value of first-name self-talk as a way to disable social anxiety before and after a stressful event when people often ruminate about their performance.

Kross gave 89 participants five minutes to prepare a speech. Half were told to use only pronouns to refer to themselves while the other half were told to use their names. The pronoun group had greater anxiety with such comments as, “There’s no way I can prepare a speech in five minutes,” while the name group had less anxiety and expressed confidence using self-talk such as, “Bryan, you can do this.” The name group was also rated higher in performance by independent evaluators and was less likely to ruminate after the speech.

Other studies also show that first-name self-talk is more likely to empower you and increase the likelihood that, compared to someone using first-person pronoun self-talk, you see a challenge (thrive mind) instead of a threat (survive mind).

Types of self-talk
Types of self-talk

2. Broaden-and-Build

Like the zoom lens of a camera, Mother Nature hardwired your survival brain for tunnel vision to target a threat. Your heart races, eyes dilate, and breathing escalates to enable you to fight or flee.

As your brain zeroes in, your self-talk makes life-or-death judgments that constrict your ability to see possibilities. Your focus is narrow like the zoom lens of a camera, clouding out the big picture. And over time you build blind spots of negativity without realizing it.

Self-talk through your wide-angle lens allows you to step back from a challenge, look at the big picture, and brainstorm a wide range of possibilities, solutions, opportunities, and choices.

In a study conducted by Dr. Barbara Frederickson at the University of North Carolina, researchers assigned 104 people to one of three groups: Group 1 experienced positive feelings (amusement or serenity), Group 2 negative feelings (anger or fear), and Group 3 no special feelings (neutrality). Then the researchers said, “Given how you’re feeling, make a list of what you want to do right now.” The positive group had the longest list of possibilities compared to the negative and neutral groups because the positive perspective showcased a range of possibilities.

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