Words have extreme power, and how you use them shapes other people’s opinions of you, as well as how you feel personally. The words we choose can either deplete our energy stores, or boost them, but most people don’t realize the importance of the vocabulary they use. We often say things without really thinking them through, and just blurt out what comes to mind first. However, words carry energy with them, so if we choose too many negative words, it can actually end up changing our brains, and not in a good way.
However, carefully choosing our words and becoming more mindful of what we say can rewire our brains in a positive way. You might be thinking, “Words don’t matter THAT much. My choice of words can’t really change my brain, can they?” Well, the answer might surprise you.
Doctors Explain How Choosing Your Words Can Literally Change Your Brain
Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and Mark Robert Waldman, a communications expert, wrote a life-changing book together called “Words Can Change Your Brain.” In this book, they wrote that“a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
Using positive, uplifting words like “love” and “peace” in our everyday lives can literally change pathways in our brains by boosting our cognitive reasoning and making areas of the frontal lobes more effective. Using positive words in place of negative words can give you the energy and motivation to start taking charge in life, and will give you more control over yourself and your choices.
However, when we use negative words, we activate the fear response in our brains, which increases levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. Although all of us have primitive instincts to protect us and help us survive in dangerous situations, using excessive negative language will only cause us to worry unnecessarily.
Furthermore, when we repeat negative thoughts over and over in our brains, the activity levels increase in our brain’s fear center (the amygdala). As a result, stress hormones begin to take over our bodies, which explains why we feel on edge and anxious when exposed to too much negativity. While we need some level of stress and fear in order to survive, having TOO much of these can cause negative impacts on our mental and physical health. Newberg and Waldman write, “Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes.”
This excerpt from the book explains how positive thoughts can transform our brains, and our lives:
“By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain.
Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.”
A study performed about positive psychology provides further evidence that using uplifting language can rewire your brain and thought processes. A group of adults aged 35-54 had to write down three positive things that happened during their day, and why they chose those things. The following three months revealed that they felt increasingly happier, and much less depressed. This small study shows that we can indeed rewire our brains by focusing our attention on what goes right in our lives, and not letting what goes wrong affect us so much.
So, what types of words do you use most often – negative or positive?
If you don’t know for sure, start paying attention to the words you use frequently, and write them down if you have to. Then, you can begin to see where patterns emerge in your thought processes, and change them if you need to. We all must grow and adapt during this lifetime, and changing how we speak can actually change our lives if we simply become more mindful and aware.