For the most part, when we talk about ‘communication’, we’re refering to exchanging thoughts or feelings with another person, but being able to communicate effectively with yourself can be equally as important as and helpful with getting your message across to others.
Despite the negative connotations that go along with ‘talking’ to yourself, checking in with yourself, being aware of how you’re feeling, knowing how to express your thoughts and emotions, and encouraging or regulating yourself are all positive things.
As Emily wrote about in a previous blog, the more in tune you are with yourself, the better you’ll be able to understand your own thoughts and feelings, and the better you understand them, the easier it will be to explain them to others.
But we also talk to ourselves when we’re trying build good habits or reassure ourselves. If you’re trying to eat healthier, you may recite the benefits of healthy eating, recite the consequences of poor eating, and remind yourself about how good you felt the last time you ate nutritious foods.
You may also talk to yourself when you’re nervous after hearing a creak in your empty apartment: « It’s probably nothing, just the upstairs neighbours or the cat. I locked the door, everything’s fine, it’s not a serial killer come to kill me, just relax, everything’s fine. » This is similar to giving ourselves pep talks when faced with challenging situations, like going on a first date or an interview.
The flip side is that you may speak to yourself in negative ways, spewing unhelpful thoughts, like that it doesn’t matter if you eat unhealthily now because you’ll probably fall off the wagon eventually, that the noise you heard is, in fact, a serial killer, or that your date won’t like you because your tinder picture is prettier than you are without the aid of a filter.
When you are talking to yourself negatively, try to understand why you’re doing it. Hopefully, once you figure that out, you can come up with strategies to help you combat those negative ideas. Some people harshly criticize themselves if they do something they perceive as wrong – say, pigging out on junk food when they’ve been trying to eat healthier – because they think this will dissuade them from making the same mistake in the future. Unfortunately, this doesn’t often work, and reprimanding yourself doesn’t provide you with motivation to do better but instead causes you to feel demoralized, defeated, or like a failure.
The more we practice communicating with ourselves, especially in positive ways, the more in tune we are with our thoughts and emotions, the easier it will be to acknowledge but not give power to negative thoughts when they come into our heads. It will also be easier to boost the encouraging, reassuring, helpful thoughts.
Being mindful of yourself, your body, your thoughts, and your feelings plays a large role in this. And one of the ways to be in tune with yourself is to ask yourself seemingly simple questions – how do I feel right now? What do I keep thinking about?
When we focus on particular thoughts, whether good or bad, they tend to become our reality, or at least our perception of it. So being mindful of what thoughts we keep coming back to is important information.
Whether you communicate with yourself through meditation, journaling, going for walks, running, or whatever helps you feel calm and connected, regularly checking in with yourself, making sure you understand yourself, will be beneficial to you and your relationships with others.