Why Your Language Affects How You Show Up in the World
It happens to the best of us.
Negative self-talk, self-deprecating comments, words that chip away at the fragile container of our self-worth.
As a result, we second-guess our decisions, we shy away from new experiences and opportunities, and we lose sight of what makes us unique – until we’re only pale reflections of the people we’re meant to be.
But we have the power to change the script when we choose a new inner monologue.
The Science Behind Words, Emotions, and Cognitive Function
Studies suggest that language can shape our emotions, experiences, and perceptions. In fact, words can even affect activity in the brain, creating a catalyst for positive action or halting us in the paralyzing path of stress or fear.
Given the importance of our frontal lobe when it comes to reason, logic, and decision-making, it’s no surprise that hindering its function prevents us from stepping into our power and alters the way we operate in the world. Authors of the book “Words Can Change Your Brain” highlight that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress” – meaning that just one negative word can trigger a downward physiological and emotional spiral.
Focusing on a positive word, however, stimulates activity in our frontal lobe, and over time can affect parts of the brain responsible for processing our interactions with others – and our own self-perception.
When we consider the power of language in how we perceive ourselves and the world around us, the words we choose become even more significant.
Harnessing the Power of Language to Create Positive Change
While it may seem overwhelming to intentionally choose words that cultivate your sense of optimism and support your well-being, remember that small choices each day can re-train your default behaviors and create new habits that enable you to thrive.
Consider these simple practices to help you develop a more conscious approach to the language you use, both with others and yourself.
Pay attention to the words you use on a daily basis. Start listening when you speak, both aloud and within the delicate spaces of your mind. Write down the words that come up frequently.
What tone do you use with yourself? With others?
What words do you find yourself choosing most often?
How does your vocabulary shift in periods of stress? In times of ease and comfort?
Notice how your language choices make you feel. Review the list of words you jotted down. Allow yourself to deeply experience the emotions and feelings that result from these words you regularly use, whether positive or negative.
Do they uplift or dishearten the people you interact with, and yourself?
Do they reflect a spirit of gratitude or resentment?
Do they diminish or reinforce your self-worth?
Write down words that inspire and empower you. Reflect on the words you’ve used, or perhaps heard from others, that infuse you with optimism, confidence, and the lightness of unlimited possibilities. Write these down in a new list.
What words have you seen visibly brighten others?
What words make you smile deeply and genuinely?
What words breathe life and light into your being?
Consciously choose words that spark positivity. Refer to your new list often and continue to expand your vocabulary accordingly. Recognize that you have the power to embody optimism with a single word choice, and use that as motivation for speaking with intention – both to yourself and others.
How can you incorporate these words in dialogue with others?
What mantras can you develop to positively guide your self-talk?
How can you continually check in with yourself to monitor the words you’re choosing?
How might you re-route your inner dialogue if it’s not nurturing or supporting you?
It may seem tedious at first, but paying attention to the words that frequent your mind helps shape your beliefs, perceptions, and choices – whether you’re aware of their effect or not.
The best part?
Thanks to our tendency to adopt the habits of those around us, by choosing language that uplifts and inspires, you might just initiate a positive cycle that changes the world, one word at a time.
Looking for more like this? Download my Daily Journal Prompts: Intro Guide to Reflection + Introspection.