Talk to Yourself: It's Not Just for Crazy People!

Research shows self-talk can boost concentration

I have a friend -- let’s just call him John -- who talks to himself, out loud, at full volume, while walking down the street. He will be so engrossed in his personal monologue that he won’t see me until I’ve practically smacked him in the head. His wife berates him for his behavior, which admittedly makes him look like a full-fledged crazy person (e.g. the male version of Lindsay Lohan).

While talking to yourself gives the appearance that you’ve lost all touch with your rational side, new research suggests the opposite is true: It helps engage your noggin and even speeds up the thinking process. Well, certain types of self-talk, anyway. Researchers found that having people repeat the word of an item they were searching for (banana, banana, banana), helped them locate it more quickly. Other kinds of soliloquoys, such as berating yourself for being a stupid piece of crap, for instance, are not likely to have the same brain-boosting effect.

Laughing at all those self-talkers? Turns out, most people talk to themselves at least every few days, according to a LiveScience report.

Back in my college days I always knew I’d had too many gin and tonics when I started babbling to myself in the bathroom of bars. And now I completely understand why. If my brain was short-circuiting under the influence of alcohol, talking myself through the mundane task of going to the loo probably helped me stay focused so I didn’t end up with toilet paper on my shoe or my purse in the toilet. 

It probably also explains why my friend is always engaged in a one-way repartee -- and no, he’s not always drunk. John is one of those absentminded professor types who is usually so distracted by one idea or another that talking himself is probably the only way for him to stay focused on one task at a time.

Well, no wonder crazy people talk to themselves: it’s likely the last tenuous thread that keeps them tied to reality. Maybe if they just repeated the word “marbles” to themselves, they would find their way back a lot more quickly.

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