EPISODE #899

How to Control, Reframe and Change the Chatter in Your Head

Ethan Kross, Ph.D.

Learn how to turn your mind’s negative inner chatter into constructive self-talk with science-backed tools.

Ethan Kross

In this Episode of The Human Upgrade™...

… you’ll find out how to harness the power of your inner voice to ease anxiety, improve physical and mental health, and deepen your relationship with others.

“The mind is flexible, if we know how to bend it,” says psychologist and award-winning professor Ethan Kross, Ph.D., founder of the Emotion & Self Control Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

He’s one of the world’s leading experts in controlling the conscious mind. He studies the ways in which your inner voice impacts your health, performance, decisions and relationships. He explores how people manage their emotions in order to better understand self-control. In particular, the conversations you have with yourself directly impact every part of your health and life.

He explains that your inner voice functions to do things like this:

  • Keep information active in your mind
  • Coach you through problems
  • Simulate and plan ahead
  • Tell you stories

That inner voice can be a powerful tool, giving you creativity, connection and definition. However, when the voice turns to negative and disorienting self-talk (chatter), it can create chaos and overwhelm by zooming into our problems, making you lose perspective.

“You don’t want to get rid of your inner voice,” Ethan says. “You want to figure out how you can harness it. How can you harness its dark bastardly side, which is what I call chatter. That’s the dark manifestation. Getting stuck in those negative thought loops, getting stuck in that chatter, I think is one of the big problems we face as a culture because I know what it does to us. It makes it hard for us to think, it creates problems in our relationships and it undermines our health.”

"Social media really adds a whole new layer to the study of the inner voice because it's really the inner voice becoming the outer voice."

Ethan Kross, Ph.D.

Ethan’s pioneering research mixes behavioral and brain research to get at the “why” behind human nature. He uses insights from his research to give people science-based tools they can use to change their behavior, be used in relationships, support a career move, improve physical performance, decrease stress, increase productivity and be used to reach life goals. You’ll use new tools like mental time travel, tough love and introspection.

“If you experience chatter at times, that doesn’t mean that anything is wrong with you,” Ethan says. “It means you’re dealing with life and the curve balls that it throws at us. And that can sometimes be a little challenging to do. And here are some things you could do to manage that more effectively.”

In this conversation about his new book, “CHATTER: The Voice in Our Head, Why It Matters, and How to Harness It,” you’ll learn:

  • How social media plays a part in our chatter
  • How to zoom out with a flexible mind, changing thoughts and distancing ourselves
  • How to use tough love
  • How to teach your kids about chatter from a young age
  • How to help your friends with their own chatter (and what makes it worse)

“The best kinds of conversations about chatter do two things,” Ethan says. “First, the person you’re talking to does allow you to express your emotions to a point. They learn about what you’re going through, they empathize, they validate. But then at a certain point in the conversation, they start working with you to try help you reframe that experience.”

With Ethan’s experience studying the conscious mind for 20 years, you can learn how to turn negativity into an awesome tool that helps you master your own self-talk.

Enjoy the show!

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  • What was the voice in your head saying when I read all those cool things you’ve done?  – 3:12
  • You don’t want to get rid of your inner voice. You want to figure out how can you harness it.  – 6:56
  • I think having a really good understanding of the role that negativity plays in our lives can be really useful.  – 10:36
  • Once you understand how the brain and mind work, it becomes a lot easier to modulate your behavior.  – 14:01
  • We have lots of ways of measuring indirectly the degree to which people are becoming agitated. – 23:12
  • Can you walk listeners through what is mental time travel? How do you use that to make the voice in your head behave itself?  – 24:39
  • I came across 26 or so different tools. What I can do is I can tell people what those tools are because science has defined them and describe them.  – 29:43
  • When people spend more time on social media, they overshare, they turn on social comparison hardware and they become miserable. Tell me more about why that chain happens.  – 36:36
  • One of the best ways to feel better about your own life is to help another individual. Helping other people can be a useful tool to help oneself.  – 40:45
  • So how do you know if you’re dealing with a clinical thing like anxiety or PTSD versus a voice in your head? Is it a degree of the voice? Is it a traumatic brain thing? What’s going on in drawing the line there?  – 49:23
  • If all we do is vent or what I often call co-ruminate, that just keeps all the negativity active. So you’re just rehearsing all the bad stuff. You’re not actually reframing how you’re thinking about this in any constructive way that allows you to move on.  – 55:47
  • What about our physical environment? What are your recommendations around changing what’s outside of you to get the results you want inside of you?  – 1:01:02

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