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The Science of Self-Talk

The stories we construct about our lives and what we tell ourselves are extremely important. Researchers examining the benefits of positive self-talk have found that it can minimize feelings of stress, anxiety, and defensiveness. Conversely, if we are telling ourselves negative things, our interpretation of reality will be sullied by a negative mindset and we will miss out on all the good things life has to offer. When it comes to the things we tell ourselves, we will reap what we sow.

Self-affirmation can be an extremely effective way to reduce the feelings of stress that are so pervasive in early sobriety. David Creswell of Carnegie Mellon University conducted a study of self-affirmation in relation to stressful situations. Creswell and his team asked participants to indicate their level of stress and write down a set of personal values.

Carnegie Mellon University explains, “Participants randomly assigned to a self-affirmation condition were asked to write a couple of sentences about why their number one ranked value was important (a standard self-affirmation exercise). All participants then had to complete a challenging problem-solving task under time pressure, which required creativity in order to generate correct solutions.” Results of the study found that participants who were under high levels of stress did poorly on the problem-solving task by about 50%. However, those we were under high stress but engaged in brief self-affirmation performed just as well as those with low stress.

Not only does self-affirmation increase cognitive performance and productivity, but it can also effectively minimize negative emotions. The Annenburg School for Communication, in a 2015 article entitled Study Reveals the Neural Mechanics of Self-Affirmation, examined a study by Christopher Cascio and Emily Falk on the effects of self-affirmation on the brain. The study found that self-affirmation can “take advantage of our reward circuits”, which can lead to a dampening of feelings of pain and greater ability to “maintain balance in the face of threats.” Researchers also found that “self-affirmation increases activity in the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC) and posterior cingulate (PCC), areas of the brain connected to self-related processing. That, says Cascio, suggests that increases on self-related processing act as a kind of emotional buffer to any painful, negative, or threatening information that follows.” Self-affirmation can be a powerful tool in early sobriety to mitigate feelings of stress and anxiety, as well as help us stay motivated and engaged in our recovery program.

Your life doesn’t have to be held back by the chains of addiction. You can make the decision to seek help today and begin building a brighter future. Resilient House, located in beautiful Shreveport, Louisiana, brings together the highest quality behavioral health and addictions specialists, holistic experts, and spiritual guides to help clients develop all the tools necessary to achieve and maintain sobriety. For information about treatment options, please call today: (833) 242-6431