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Need to relieve stress? Try talking to yourself

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Carving out time for a therapy session is a great way to reduce some stress. However, a one study suggests there is someone else you can talk with to release tension: yourself.

Psychology researchers from Michigan State University and University of Michigan conducted a study to determine if self-talk could reduce anxiety. To do so, scientists rounded up a group of participants for two experiments.

For the first one, the subjects were shown disturbing images, such as a man holding a gun to their heads. Then, they were asked to respond to the pictures in first-person and third-person as their brain activity was being monitored.

For the second one, they were asked to recall a traumatic experience in first-person and then in third-person while their brain activity was being reviewed.

In both cases, they found that participants displayed less brain activity in the region most associated with storing emotional experiences when speaking in the third-person than when speaking in the first-person.

“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,” Jason Moser, one of the MSU researchers, said in a statement. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”

They believe their findings imply that self-talk could be a way to effortlessly control emotions. However, more research needs to be done.

That’s why MSU and U-M are planning to continue collaborating “to explore how third-person self-talk compares to other emotion-regulation strategies.”

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