Forgot why you went downstairs? Try audible mindfulness: talking to yourself


Talking to yourself has had a bad rap. I do it, you do it (don’t you?), pretty well everyone does it. We’re not crazy! Self-talk has many useful functions and many benefits. For example, your out-loud private talk can provide company, a pep talk, a safety valve, devil’s advocate, or coaching from your infallible cognitive behaviour therapist. Often we help ourselves to learn something by talking it through.

Keeping your purpose front of mind: a lost skill

Are you inclined to forget why you went into a room or through a door or up or down the stairs? Join the club. Our heads are so full of Very Important Thoughts (the Middle East crisis, global warming, hip operation, granddaughter’s birthday) that we lose track of a thought as mundane as why we walked from A to B.

Here’s a tip that I’ve just started using consciously with awesome results: I just say out loud why I’m moving from A to B.

  • “I am going downstairs to make a rum baba” (in your dreams)
  • “I am going into the study to book my ticket to Timbucktoo”
  • “I am going into the garden to pick parsley” (not to rip out weeds or bring in the washing).

Mindfulness the manageable way: self chatter

Mindfulness day by day, living in the moment, so desirable, so difficult to achieve! And what is this loop of personal jabber but mindfulness in action?

If I can make stair-talk a habit, that gives me 20 or 30 moments of mindfulness a day. Without such a habit, mindful moments are random, and sometimes a whole day goes by without a pocket of mental peace and refreshment.

I am listening to birds

This afternoon I had a very beautiful experience by using this simple expedient.

I was taking my vege scraps to the community garden — no detours allowed.

On the walk, there’s a patch of trees favoured by the Olympic champion bird choirs of Mount Victoria. Today I got massive delight from their performance just because, at the top of the hill I said to myself, “I am listening to the birds.”

Focus. Focus (mindfulness) brings pleasures beyond just accomplishing the task in hand.

Today has been a perfect day, and it’s not over yet.



15 thoughts on “Forgot why you went downstairs? Try audible mindfulness: talking to yourself

  1. toutparmoi says:

    And haven’t we had some wonderful bird song lately! I wonder what they’re telling themselves.

    1. The best. I am bringing a worm to my mate?

      1. toutparmoi says:

        I am claiming this spot for winter?

      2. I am claiming that this is still summer

  2. Bernadette says:

    Great idea and these days with everyone talking on their smart phones, passerbys won’t think a thing of what I’m doing.

    1. Good point!

  3. smilecalm says:

    i read this wonderful
    i did, i did 🙂

    1. And you smiled. Calmly.

  4. I am writing a comment about your interesting post. Wow, it works!

    1. Excellent! Enjoy.

  5. Great idea. I have been starting to do that myself and it has made a big difference to remember what I went to the basement for. People used to say you shouldn’t talk to yourself, but I always did. Then they said, “Well, as long as you don’t answer yourself.” But I say, if you don’t answer, than how do you know you are listening. So then they would say, “At least you can’t argue with yourself.” But as you so wisely pointed out, that is a good thing to do when noodling through a tough situation. Thanks for the great post.

    1. My particular satisfaction for the “I am…” self-talk trick is that it turns this typical disapproval on its head. Suddenly we’re not old dodderers with sieves for brains. (We never were, dammit.) Instead we are self-aware people living in the moment for a moment, in our bodies, practising mindfulness. The key words are not “to do such and such” but “I am”: this is what I’m doing right now, and I know it. The stairs become a special place in their own right instead of just a route to I-forget-where. (I feel a poem coming on…)

  6. Robyn Haynes says:

    I saw this great poster of a baby saying: ‘Of course I talk to myself. How else can I get expert advice?’ My thoughts precisely.

  7. And is ‘talking to yourself’ any other than thinking externally, which gets each thought/intention circulated through your mind afresh and possibly clarified in the process? Now, my problem is I have no stairs… but a lot of ideas and intentions are engendered when I spend ten minutes on my Powerfit machine. Converting padding to muscle has sense biologically, but I bet the designers didn’t know the same might happen with respect to writing.

    1. What an excellent explanation! I have just spent an hour with a bank officer who talked herself through a long procedure. It was funny but it worked. As for the exercise muse, let ‘er rip!