Do you talk to yourself? Does it help you figure out problems? The truth is that most people talk to themselves. Shocked? Do you know that there’s a difference between talking to yourself and self-talk? This is when you go from simply having a conversation with yourself to actually working through complex issues. What if you could bounce those issues off someone or something? That’s when your self-talk can get a boost. Did I just pique your interest? Today let’s dig in and discover why your brain needs dog self-talk.
*Update: June 27, 2023
Budget Tip: One of the best aspects of dog self-talk is that it doesn't cost a cent, but the benefits can be exponentially positive. You get to work out complex issues, reduce stress, boost confidence, and improve the function of your brain. Plus, your dog gets to bond with you during the process. That's a huge win-win! And a must-do activity with your dog!
I have to admit, I’m constantly talking to my dog, Henry. I include him in my thought processes as I work through things. Even in writing this article, I consulted Henry. Sure, he didn’t respond in human language. He didn’t need to respond. He simply needed to be my sounding board. Or he needed to catch all my “self-talk” as he does daily.
What is self-talk?
Are you asking yourself “What is self-talk?” Good question. Self-talk is that internal dialogue we all have throughout the day. We can keep our self-talk as an internal dialogue. Or we can be more vocal with our self-talk.
Although there are two main types of self-talk – positive and negative, I’m concentrating on positive self-talk for this article. This blog and website are about how to improve your and your dog’s life positively. Negative self-talk does not fit that bill. Nor does it fit my lifestyle. However, if you find you’re a negative self-talker, I encourage you to take note and do your best to change it to a more positive tone.
For example instead of saying, “I can never do this. Why am I even trying?” Do your best to switch it to a positive tone. Maybe something like, “I’ve got this. I may not know how yet, but I’ve got this. I know I can do it.”
What are the benefits of self-talk?
Are you still with me? Wondering what if any benefits there are to self-talk? Well, Psyche.co refers to sel-talk as “..technology for thinking.” But maybe you are still thinking, “Well, that’s fine. I do that all the time. But people think I’m nuts!” Hold your pecans for just a moment. Medical Daily states the science of self-talk boosts brain power. More specifically the benefits of self-talk include:
1. Emotional health
When you hear more positive things your emotions tend to become more positive.
2. Motivational inspiration
You become your own motivational speaker. You may even see sports athletes using self-talk during competitions. Think of tennis players before they serve or even basketball players when they are at the free-throw line.
3. Improves mental development
This is especially true for younger children as their brains are developing. Remember those entire conversations you’d have with your stuffed animals as a kid? Or maybe even with your dog. It was helping your mental brain develop and figure things out.
4. Encourages inventive and creative thoughts
It helps you work through various ways of doing things. What may seem impossible can become possible as you self-talk or self-brainstorm thoughts.
5. Helps with mental blocks
While positive self-talk improves your emotions it also helps you think through different ways of doing things and naturally, it will aid in breaking down mental blocks.
Certain problems may seem overwhelming, but with a bit of self-talk, you find you can tackle what seemed impossible.
7. Achieve goals
While you’re problem-solving, breaking down mental blocks, and being your own cheerleader it would make sense that you achieve goals along the way.
8. Reduces stress
As self-talk is increasing your positive thoughts, breaking down mental blocks, and becoming more creative, it only makes sense that you’re decreasing your stress load.
9. Boost confidence and resilience
Since you are your own cheerleader, breaking mental blocks, and problem-solving, it stands to reason that your confidence level would go as well as your resilience.
10. Builds better relationships
As you become more positive, work through problems, and increase confidence, relationships naturally improve.
Of course, the next question is does self-talk make me smarter?
Yes, there is evidence that self-talk, especially if it’s in an instructional manner, allows the brain to perform better and the self-talk more motivated and productive. As a result, positive instructional self-talk could improve a person’s intelligence. Not too bad for talking to yourself, right?
How does my dog fit into my self-talk?
I agree self-talk is amazing with scientific evidence to back its benefits. Here’s where it gets interesting. Science also shows that the presence of a dog, which doesn’t have to mean talking to the dog, improves a person’s learning ability by supporting concentration and reducing stress.
Does that mean I don’t have to talk out loud to my dog to gain the benefits of dog self-talk?
It simply means that having your dog near you can help with learning and reduce stress. However, when you mix in the benefits of self-talk with the presence of a dog, then the process gets even more interesting. Like a recipe, you take all the benefits discussed above, mix in your dog near you and your learning improves even more, while your stress levels decrease. Still with me?
Does petting my dog during self-talk have benefits?
Another great question. Continuing with our recipe analogy, if we add the benefits of self-talk with petting your dog then we are upping our rewards even more. How is that possible?
Benefits of petting your dog
When you pet your dog you have the benefit of increasing your oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) while decreasing your cortisol (stress hormone). Plus, petting a dog helps decrease the dog’s aggression, increases his oxytocin, and aids in the bonding process. Combine these benefits with self-talk and you have amplified your self-talk session.
This could also be a bonding moment with your dog.
Is it okay if I talk to my dog as if he’s a human?
Many people have this affliction. I admit, I often (okay almost always) talk to Henry as if he’s a furry human. It’s called anthropomorphism, which means to assign human qualities to non-human entities. While in this article we are focusing on dogs, anthropomorphism could refer to assigning human attributes to any non-human thing or object. This could be a dog, a car, a computer, a plant, and the list goes on and on.
No, there does not appear to be any harm in anthropomorphism. It could even help improve your ability to empathize.
How does anthropomorphism benefit my dog self-talk?
In our case of self-talk with your dog, while petting him, you could see your dog as having human qualities. This makes him a great listener. Perhaps it gives him empathy. There is no harm in doing this at all. Additionally, if anthropomorphism improves your empathy and connections, it would reason to think that believing your dog has human qualities while you self-talk to him/her could improve your self-talk processes. Also, keep in mind that when you dog self-talk to your dog, your dog’s not judging you. In turn, you can be as free as you would like and explore various ways of being creative in your dog self-talk problem-solving.
However, if your self-talk as you are walking in the park by yourself, and people look at you oddly, do you silence or censor yourself? I’d venture that most people would say, “Yes”. Thus, having anthropomorphism, especially with your dog for self-talk could be of benefit to you.
One final note
If you are training with your dog, try to always use words he knows and do not confuse him. It’s not fair to him. Think if you’re learning to say “hello” in Japanese and suddenly the teacher walks in and says, “Good day students. How are you? What did you do yesterday?” in German. You’d look blankly at the teacher. Respect your dog. No language is easy to learn. He’ll pay you back with many hours of listening in self-talk sessions.
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Summary of dog self-talk
I know self-talk may seem a bit bizarre. But the benefits can be amazing! It gives you a chance to work through issues, while bonding with your dog and decreasing your stress level. Honestly, there’s nothing to lose with dog self-talk. Your dog loves the extra attention and it boosts your brain power. I know Henry always loves helping me work out problems.