Why You Are the Words You Use

The words you use can change your reality. Language actually generates changes in your brains and changes your perception of the environment around you.

Language is linked to emotions. Your words are constantly sending messages to your brain. According to neuroscientists Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, negative words cause the increase of cortisol, the stress hormone. Therefore, adopting a negative attitude and using phrases like “I cannot do it”, “I will fail” or “it is impossible” could weaken your personal physical and mental health.

Nowadays, many techniques associated with changing the language to treat various psychological disorders are used. An example of this is the cognitive-behavioural therapy, which demonstrate that promoting positive thinking through the language used by the patient improves their mental state.

This therapy aims to replace patients’ negative views about themselves and their surroundings with more positive ones. The applied techniques have proven to be an effective treatment for disorders such as depression, phobias, addictions or anxiety, as the activity of the brain amygdala increases when you perceive a more prosperous future through positive words. On many occasions, these therapies have proved to be as effective as medicines.

Research has shown that the brain improves when you start using three to five positive expressions for each one negative. Language has a powerful ability to change your world. It affects you negatively when you use a poor, defeatist language but it also works the other way around, namely, when you use positive phrases they will help you change your perception of the world.

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Start adopting a series of simple but very effective techniques. For example, use “yet” instead of using only “not”. Saying “I cannot do it” is not the same as saying “I cannot do it yet“. “Yet” leaves the doors open, arouses hope, evokes motivation.

You should not use “but” or, at least, you should build your phrases differently. “But” does not have the same effect when you say, “You did a good job, but you gave it to me late” compared to when you say, “You gave it to me late, but you did a good job.”

Tenses also give you a great opportunity to change your emotions. Instead of using the conditional, try using the future. You change a hypothetical scenario for a true one. It is not the same as saying: “When I write a book, I would speak of happiness” rather than “When I write a book, I will speak of happiness”. Doubt lives in the conditional, certainty in the future.

At the same time, you should avoid words like failure, problem, impossible or guilt in your language and replace them by more inspiring words like challenge or responsibility. The latter not only pushes you to grow and open more doors, but also makes you interact better with others.

Words are not harmless. They can build or tear down walls. By changing your language, you will improve your image, as language is a way to reach others. Remember that the words you use also improve the environment around you.

What do you think about the language you use with others?

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29 thoughts on “Why You Are the Words You Use

  1. Lovely post!
    True, words are powerful and they come with a responsibility to use them carefully.
    I like, “Yet” leaves the doors open, arouses hope, evokes motivation.”
    One of the first instructions a new teacher receives is to use the 6:1 positive to negative when talking to a student.
    I used the 6:1 feedback in all my parent-teacher meetings and it worked very well.
    Best wishes.

      1. 6:1 feedback:
        Using 5 or 6 positive remarks before saying a negative one.
        For example, if my student was struggling, I would enforce his/her strengths first. Then address the weakness and provide a course of action to address it. It worked and the student felt encouraged to try harder in the subject he/she was struggling.

  2. So true. When I was very depressed, my therapist told me to start a gratitude journal. I was so skeptical but did it. I realized that you must not use the words “but” or “except.” You can say “I’m grateful I mopped the floor today” but don’t say “I’m grateful I mopped the floor today but the rest of my house is filthy.” Just being grateful and not qualifying or diminishing it did wonders for me. Changing my language, changing my thoughts, learning to reframe things positively, made such a difference in my life.

    1. I should have answered the question about how we use language with others. We can make or break someone so we need to be so careful. In the past, I wasn’t always nice because I wasn’t nice with myself. And I saw how others reacted to me, how I hurt them. When I started becoming conscious of my negative thoughts and how badly they impacted me, I began to apply this concept to change how I impacted others, imagining how I would feel if spoken to that way (the bad way I always spoke to myself). Golden rule stuff. So simple but so true.

    2. A gratitude journal is simply a great thing to do! I have been writing one since 2015. I think it is very helpful also to better understand what really matters to you.

  3. I notice a huge difference in my mood and perspective on life when I’m talking to myself positively rather than negatively. It’s hard not to have that negative voice but something I started this week was that when I notice myself going down that path of worrying about future scenarios or speaking to myself negatively, I pause, and then I start naming or writing down 5 things I’m grateful for that day so far. It really helps but I have a long way to go. It’s hard to actually fathom positive language having similar impacts as medicine… but I do believe it. How do you incorporate using positive language more into your life?

    1. Honestly, I have to think a lot before speaking, and it’s not bad also because it makes you reflect more about what you want to say and how you want to say. I used to say to one of my colleagues that the form is also content. You can say the same thing in different ways, and if you think thoroughly about what you want to say, the communication will be definitely better. But I agree that it is hard. Practice is key.

  4. The words we use are powerful indeed. Another useful word change is have to get. Instead of I ‘have’ to this or I ‘must’ do that – tell yourself you ‘get’ to them. I get to look after your finances. You get to do the laundry. I get to exercise. It changes everything. Lovely post Cristiana!

  5. Definitely believe our words are powerful. They can kill or heal. And a lot of us are hurting ourselves by our words.

  6. Great post!! I 100% believe this. In a translation class I took, one of my readings suggested that our perception of the world is, in many ways, limited by the language we speak. The way we organize the environment around us depends on the words we know (which is determined by our language) — and I feel like the same theory applies to the words that we CHOOSE for that organization. (I could maybe look into the title and author of this reading when I get home, if ur interested. I looked up some keywords and too many options popped up!) Anyway, thanks for great insights.

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