Words matter. We know this is true because we as a human race not only use language to communicate daily but we know how much it hurts when careless or unkind words are spoken. In fact, in a study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School, it was shown amongst the middle school children studied that verbal abuse from other children can actually harm a developing brain. The area specifically impacted was the part of the brain called the corpus callosum which connects the right and left sides of the brain. When this area is underdeveloped, it can impact the emotional and mental wellness of the individual. And, developing brains are especially susceptible to this sort of disturbance.
So, if words from others can have that large of an impact, what about our own words? Negative self-talk can be highly damaging. And, even beyond self-talk, the words we use can actually shape the way we view the world around us. Here's an example. Consider these two statements and see which one feels better to you.
- I'm so busy.
- My life is incredibly full.
Which statement feels more like a blessing, rather than a hardship? Clearly the second statement has a much more positive spin. Here's another one.
- That went poorly.
- I learned an important lesson.
Once again, the focus is on what a participant can gain or receive from the experience, rather than focusing on the negative aspect. The language you use shapes your experiences. It can influence the way you think, feel and experience the world around you. Even on a difficult day, choosing your words carefully can lead you to a happier place.
Here are a few steps to get started.
1. Use language about the options you DO have and what CAN be done, as opposed to focusing on the negative outcome.
(Ex.”This is a terrible setback” vs. “We have several great options to consider.”
2. Look for options and solutions and share those ideas with others
(Ex. “We are left without a way to move forward” vs. “There are several ways we can move forward. Here are some ideas.”
3. Use praising words as opposed to shaming
(Ex. “I will feel terrible if I eat that piece of cake” vs. “I feel so great when I make healthy eating choices.”)
When we can shift the way we view the world and adjust the inner dialogue we use daily, the world can begin to feel like a more positive and welcoming space. Sometimes it just comes down to the words we use.