Can We Decrease Anxiety by Changing the Tone of Our Inner Voice?

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We all have an inner voice. I’m not necessarily referring to the “Jiminy Cricket, conscience” type of inner voice, but rather, an inner sense that helps us identify emotions, opinions, make decisions, and so on.

Because we have this constant inner voice, however, it is easy for us to get caught up in our personal monologue which could cause unnecessary anxiety.

A new study by Dr. Mark Seery, an associate professor in the University of Buffalos Department of Psychology, found that switching from first to the third person as the framework for our self-talk “can help us see ourselves through someone elses eyes and can lead to improved confidence and performance.”

For instance, if your name was “Pat” and you were to use the technique to help decrease your anxiety about an upcoming job interview, you might write, “Pat feels nervous about his upcoming job interview.”  It may seem silly, but this study found that writing or speaking about feelings in the third person actually activates the para-sympatheric (or “calm down”) nervous system in powerful ways that puts the breaks on the physical experience of fear, worry, and anxiety. Most significantly, people who used this technique had much greater control over their heart rate in anxiety situations than people who simply spoke of their feelings in the first person.

This type of third person self-talk is referred to as “self distancing,” or taking a “distance perspective.” Dr. Seery states that “Being a fly on the wall might be the way to put our best foot forward.” By inserting our name where we would usually simply say “I” allows us to gain a new perspective and “see ourselves as an outside observer.” As Dr. Seery found, this seemingly minute change can make a big impact on decreasing anxiety and gaining a healthier, more balanced perspective on both the big and small issues that we encounter in our lives.

For more tips on decreasing anxiety, check out my book God Help Me! This Stress Is Driving Me Crazy! and tune in to More2Life, weekdays at 10am E/9am C on EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network!

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