Thinking itself is quite a mystery when you really consider it. Psychologist Charles Fernyhough has spent time investigating inner voices and notes that on average about 25% of our days are occupied by thoughts in the form of language directed at ourselves. We don't always visualize—we have conversations with ourselves.
This internal dialogue is powerful, because it brings together different perspectives. It's an opportunity to acknowledge different sides of ourselves, like rational/emotional and hedonistic/restraining. Thinking to ourselves also allows us to explore, mimic, and anticipate the perspectives of those we know (see: theory of mind).
It's no secret that how we manage our thoughts is a cornerstone of self-care. But given this new research and understanding of internal language, I've been much more mindful of the dialogues I have with myself and the purpose they serve.
We might also consider how we can introduce even more of this dialogue into our daily lives, to better take care of ourselves.
Questions to ask yourself...
When you’re just not feeling well: If I were my own doctor, what would I prescribe? Sometimes we need the push to engage our more rational and tough love sides. For me, the answer is often to drink more water, eat more greens, or walk away from something that is currently stressful.
When you’re conflicted: What would _____ do? Pick someone you admire and would like to emulate. What decision would she make? How would he carry himself? What would she say?
When you’re happy: Why do I feel so wonderful? We tend to focus on the times we feel upset and try to combat those moments. But it is equally important to pause during the times of day when you feel good: happy, relaxed, excited, positive, joyful. Notice the conditions and variables that create those wonderful moments, and try to recreate them as much as possible.