By Janine Wolf
Only 20 minutes left until you have to walk into your biochemistry lecture hall and take the notorious mid-term exam. At this point, chances are a million different voices may be clouding up valuable space in your head.
The conversation may be going something like this:
“You are going to do great! Seriously, you have absolutely nothing to worry about,” your ‘encouraging’ voice said.
“Wait, which amino acids have positive charges again?” your ‘worried’ voice brings up.
“You shouldn’t have pulled an all-nighter yesterday,” your ‘angry’ voice reprimands.
“Okay, okay — I got this,” you finally say out loud.
Though most people won’t spend a second thought – pun intended – on the voices, every person has them, according to researchers.
A phenomenon that psychologists call one’s ‘inner speech,’ researchers have been trying to learn more about them for as long as psychology has been around.
Scientists know that inner speech is actually physically produced by microscopic muscular movements made by the larynx, popularly known as the “voice box.” Furthermore, neuroscientists discovered that areas of the brain that are active during vocal speech, known as Broca’s area, are also active during silent speech.
The act of talking to yourself is still considered frowned upon by the majority of people. Yet, a quick Google search indicates there are many health benefits associated with using your ‘inner voices.’
Molly Andrews, a professor of political psychology at the University of East London, said releasing one’s inner voice is simply human.
“We’re unique in the animal kingdom in being able to imagine,” Andrews said in a recent interview on Radio 4. “Far from it being a source of madness, it actually gives us the ability to think about other worlds. It’s critical in what it means to be human.”
A myriad of research show that talking to yourself and expressing your inner voices can help your brain run more efficiently – it allows us to connect with ourselves.
Beginning with the early years on earth, children learn quicker by talking to themselves. Through self-directed speech, children guide their own behavior through a step-by-step process, making tasks like tying shoelaces easier, according to Live Science.
Especially relevant in today’s competitive and stressful environment, talking to yourself allows you to have a person to vent to 24/7. Thinking of yourself as a different person, allows you to provide yourself with objective, helpful feedback, according to Ethan Kross, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Michigan.
Studies at University of Michigan also noted the benefits of addressing oneself as “you” rather than “I” to completely separate oneself from the picture. The people who followed the suggestion were less tormented by anxiety and self-doubt.
Expressing your inner voices out loud can also engage your emotions, ultimately creating better memory. Hearing the sounds of your voice and feeling how your body reacts to it can be powerful.
At this point, you may be wondering if there are any limitations to what you can express through your inner voices. Well, that’s exactly it: there is no right or wrong when it comes to holding a conversation with yourself – be it out loud or inside your head.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should start holding deep talks with yourself in the supermarket, but it does mean that when the time is appropriate, don’t be afraid of engaging your voices. Allow you to make yourself feel and think better.