Apparently, talking to yourself in the third person may help relieve stress
Let’s face it — sometimes, we all talk to ourselves. Apparently, talking to yourself may help relieve stress, according to Today. But talking to yourself in general is not enough — it has to be in the third person, they reported. This is based on a “first-of-its-kind study” by psychology researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, according to MSU Today. The findings are now online in Scientific Reports, a Nature journal.
“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain, said Jason Moser, MSU associate professor of psychology. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.
If you ask us, this ~totally~ makes sense, even though the concept may sound odd at first.
Plus, it may take some getting used to. Instead of asking yourself, “How do I feel about that?” you’ll put your name, or ours in this case, in the equation and say, “How does HelloGiggles feel about that?”
The National Institutes of Health and the John Temple Foundation partially funded the study, and two experiments were done for it.
In one, at Moser’s Clinical Psychophysiology Lab, participants viewed neutral and disturbing images. Then, they reacted to them in both the first and third person. All the while, their brain activity was monitored by an electroencephalograph. With disturbing images, participants’ emotional brain activity decreased fast, within one second, when they referred to themselves in the third person. Fascinating, right?!
The MSU researchers also measured participants’ effort-related brain activity. They discovered that using the third person did not require more effort on the brain than using first-person self-talk. So, using third-person self-talk could help regulate one’s emotions, Moser said. The more help we can get, the better, right?!
The University of Michigan’s psychology professor Ethan Kross, who directs the Emotion and Self-Control Lab, led the other experiment.
Participants’ brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) as they thought about painful experiences from their past using first- and third-person language. Once again, the benefit of third-person self-talk seemed to be the takeaway as participants showed less activity in a brain region that is commonly associated with painful emotional experiences, which implies better emotional regulation, the study found. Like the above, third-person self-talk did not require more effort on the brain than first-person.
“If this ends up being true — we won’t know until more research is done — there are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life, Kross said, according to MSU Today.
Moser, Kross, and their teams will continue to research the topic. In the meantime, we should all practice our third-person self-talk and see how it goes!