Do you talk to yourself? If you don’t, and you’re stressed out, it might be something to consider. New research shows that, despite the stigma and social awkwardness of talking out loud to nobody but yourself, the act of doing so is actually beneficial to your mental wellbeing, especially if you’re looking to control emotions and calm your mind — but there’s a catch.

A study, published in Scientific Reports and run by researchers from Michigan State University as well as the University of Michigan, suggests that address yourself out loud is an effective way of managing emotions. The catch here is that not just any mindless chatter provides the positive results, and talking about yourself in the third person is apparently the key to managing your feelings.

“Essentially, we think referring to yourself in the third person leads people to think about themselves more similar to how they think about others, and you can see evidence for this in the brain,” explains MSU associate professor of psychology Jason Moser. “That helps people gain a tiny bit of psychological distance from their experiences, which can often be useful for regulating emotions.”

The research shows that, by distancing your thoughts from the typical first-person mindset, we’re able to better analyze our own emotional reactions without bias. That outside perspective is the key to addressing personal thoughts in a measured and emotionless way, and speaking those thoughts out loud rapidly decreases the brain activity associated with stress.

“What’s really exciting here is that the brain data from these two complimentary experiments suggest that third-person self-talk may constitute a relatively effortless form of emotion regulation,” says University of Michigan psychology professor Ethan Kross. “If this ends up being true – we won’t know until more research is done – there are lots of important implications these findings have for our basic understanding of how self-control works, and for how to help people control their emotions in daily life.”

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