Internal dialogue goes by many names such as "self-talk," "inner speech," "inner monologue," and "internal discourse," which occurs while we are awake. We experience inner voices while we are involved in activities such as reading or self-introspection of our thoughts. 

Importance of Internal Dialogue

Internal dialogue is an essential tool of our cognition system that we use to make sense of our surroundings. It helps us to make a firm opinion or belief about ourselves, others, and the world.

From helping us to decide what to cook for dinner to suggesting us to carve out plans to solve world-crisis, our inner voices have befriended us since our evolution as humans.

Inner Voices Types: Negative & Positive

Our inner voices directly affect our quality of life because these talks reflect the way we think about ourselves. Generally, these voices can be split into two categories: positive and negative. The following example can illustrate the difference between the two: 

What are your Thoughts after a Break-up? 

1. I'm unlovable, and I am not worthy of being loved.

2. We had our differences, and it is not a good thing that we broke up, but now I know what I can do in my future relationships to make the most out of them. 

The first is an example of negative internal dialogue. Here, the image of the self is distorted, and one's negative side is grossly exaggerated. However, the second example of internal dialogue acknowledges the individuals' shortcomings and conveys a positive message.

The importance of internal dialogue is that it gives us an idea of our beliefs and self-esteem and strengthens our skills and mental health. 

If all you hear is negative things about yourself in every waking moment, you will start believing it.

This kind of thought pattern is the reason why we must start peppering our internal dialogues with positive affirmations. 

How To Regulate Internal Dialogue Or Inner Voices? 

The thoughts that arise in our minds can sometimes be contradicting, messy, negative, or confusing. Here are some tips to help you identify these thoughts so that you can deconstruct, analyze, and manage them. 

Awareness

The first step of regulating your internal dialogue is becoming aware of the inner voices. One of the ways you can try to recognize them by asking yourself, "What was I thinking about just now?" or "What is my next thought going to be?"

Taking charge of your brain this way breaks the train of thought and gives you the awareness of what is happening. 

Reflection

Reflection serves the purpose of breaking down the nature of your thoughts and identifying the negative and the positive sides of your thinking. These below-listed questions will help you to examine your thoughts in a manageable fashion. 

  1. Do I tend to think positively or negatively?
  2. Do I tend to think in the past, present, or the future? The purpose behind taking the time factor into account is to identify where your attention lies. It is to understand whether you are stuck in the past, worried about the present, or the future. 
  3. Do I want things to improve, or am I just trying to understand how things are connected? 

Write Things Down

Writing your thoughts on a secret diary is always a good idea. When you write your thoughts down, make sure you are honest. After you are done, take a break, revisit your penned thoughts again. and ask yourself, "Do I genuinely think this is true for me?" and "Is this thought getting in the way of my mental well-being?"

Contradict the Thoughts

When you find ways to contradict negative thoughts, you are rewiring your brain to form a new way of thinking. 

Positive Affirmations

It is always a good idea to post pictures or notes that make you happy.  Sometimes seeing an inspiring picture or a motivating quote is enough to redirect your thinking. Maybe even take a break from work or your studies and tell yourself that you're doing a good job. 

And when you are having contradicting thoughts, try to focus on the positive aspects of things. 

Exercises for Regulating Internal Dialogue

The tips mentioned above are some of the ways that you can identify and regulate your thoughts. If you think about it, regulating and identifying internal dialogue boils down to the awareness of yourself. Here are a few exercises that you can start doing that will help you be the master of your own thoughts.

The Five Senses Exercise 

You can do this exercise almost anywhere and in nearly every situation. It focuses on external stimuli that gradually move closer to you. It also utilizes your internal dialogue.

  • Name five things that you can see: Bring your attention to the things you can see right now and name them in your head. It can be something you don't usually see—like a little crack in the wall or a weird shadow in the ground.  

  • Name four things that you can smell:  Hone in your sense on the smells that you usually filter out whether it is good or bad. It could be the way your office smells or maybe the smell of the grass if you're outside. 

  • Name three things that you can hear: From the spinning of the fan to the clicking on the keyboard, name the three things you hear using your internal dialogue

  • Name two things that you can feel: It can be the way the fabric feels on your skin or how comfortable your chair is.

  • Name one thing that you can taste: What do you taste in your mouth right now? Maybe it's the taste of the coffee you just finished. You can take a sip of water if you don't have anything and tell yourself how that tastes. 

Turn your Negative Internal Dialogue into Questions

This is another exercise that will focus on your thoughts rather than outside stimuli. But when you do this exercise, you really have to pay attention to what you are thinking. Negative internal dialogue often starts with "I can't," or "I don't."

If you do find these intrusive negative thoughts, turn them into questions. For instance, an example of negative thought could be, "I can't pass my exams because I'm not smart enough for this course." 

Now change this into a furious question: "I can't pass my exams because I'm not smart enough???" 

Think about the question again, and if your answer is yes, find pieces of evidence that prove that you're smart.

To do so, you can ask yourself these questions:

  1. What successes have I had in previous educational endeavors?
  2. What did I do differently back then?
  3. What success have I had in other aspects of life?
  4. What is stopping me from doing the same right now? 

Parting words

In the beginning, these exercises could be tough for some of us, but repetition and practice make a world of difference. Treat the suggestions mentioned in the article like your very own mind gym and start observing the changes around you.

You can use the "Five Senses Exercise" to warm up and gradually start observing your internal thought process.