By Lisa Chinn
We often regard wellness as a physical, emotional and financial state of being, while overlooking the impact words have. The relationships between physical, emotional and financial health are interconnected. Physical issues can lead to emotional distress, and vice versa. Having a stable financial state means being able to afford health care and buy healthy foods, in addition to reducing worries over money. These relationships seem obvious. However, an incredibly important and often-overlooked contributor or deterrent to wellness is our words.
For years, studies have demonstrated higher illness recovery rates, better mental health states and stronger immune systems in people with positive attitudes compared to more pessimistic individuals. Words can either contribute to or detract from a positive outlook and wellness. For example, making an effort to tell yourself that, “Everything is going to be all right,” in a difficult situation can improve your outlook. When you feel better about an issue, you also become more motivated, more energized, and more able to find a solution. Positive words don’t just make you feel better; they also give you the determination needed to actually get through problems and make a huge impact in your wellness.
Here are some tips to help stay positive:
- If you have something difficult to accomplish, don’t constantly remind yourself and others how difficult and stressful it is. Instead, remind yourself that you will feel great when you finish.
- When an outcome isn’t what you expect, don’t tell yourself that you failed. Instead, focus on what you learned from the experience and what you can do better next time.
- Smile when you talk. Smiling is an instant mood-booster and will lead to more positive words and outcomes.
- Acknowledge difficult situations for what they are, but spend time talking about solutions instead of complaining about the situation.
Our words are also insights into our views on life. Sometimes our words reveal hidden fears and anxieties that we aren’t even aware of. For example, I can tell that I’m feeling really worried or negative about an obstacle in my life when I catch myself telling multiple friends and family members about it. Conquering apartment hunting, graduate school applications, or a job interview might not seem like a big deal in the grand scheme of things. However, I’ve caught myself talking about these things repeatedly and realized that I was feeling more stressed and negative about them that I wanted to admit. I was then able to make an effort to find and work on the root of my worries or ask a mentor for help.
You can also gain insights into your attitude by paying careful attention to your word choice. You might not think that any given task is impossible or horrible, but might find that you talk yourself into feeling more negative about it than necessary. If you hear yourself telling a friend that a simple project is going to take a really long time, be difficult or be stressful, you might be able to make it less daunting by improving your attitude. Negative words don’t have to be external; it’s also important to pay attention to your inner dialogue and try to keep it positive. There are big differences between saying or thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this,” and, “This is going to be stressful, but I can probably do it,” and finally, “I’m going to accomplish this successfully with a little effort.” The task might be the same no matter how you talk about it, but it will usually feel easier and more pleasant to accomplish with a positive outlook.
A recent example that comes to mind is two separate friends who needed to drive to the city I live in from two hours away for similar errands. One told me ahead of time that she wasn’t looking forward to the super long drive, and showed up tired and anxious from driving in a strange city. The other got off the phone saying that she would see me soon, and arrived in a great mood. We all have our own strengths, struggles and experiences, but attitude and words have a huge impact on how difficult it feels to take on or accomplish a task.
Effects on Others
Words impact the speaker, and they also have powerful effects on others. Words especially tend to impact young people, who tend to trust adults’ views on situations and base negative or positive outlooks on the attitudes of those around them. When talking to people it is important to remain aware of the effects that your words might have on their wellness. Insults and angry words can hurt anyone, but they can be especially traumatic for children who look up to adults. Negative words increase others’ stress levels, which negatively impacts mental and physical wellness.
Positive words also lead to greater self-esteem and positive life outcomes. If you tell a child that he can do something if he practices, he will be more likely to work hard and reach his goal. If you tell him that something will be really difficult for him, he might be afraid to try. Children believe what adults tell them and the beliefs instilled in people at a young age can affect their mental and physical wellness throughout their lives.
One of the easiest ways to use words to communicate responsibly is to pay attention to tone. A raised voice or angry words immediately put the listener on edge and can mean the difference between a calm discussion and a scary argument. Even if you’re upset with someone, remember that you will get a much better response from most people if you approach a conversation as a discussion rather than a confrontation.
Insults are also something important to avoid. When we get frustrated with someone, name-calling and mean words can become very tempting. However, insults often make people feel bad about themselves and harm their emotional wellness without helping them understand what they could do to fix the initial problem. Instead of calling a loud neighbor or roommate “rude” or “annoying”, calmly ask if she might be willing to turn down her music. Instead of telling a friend he is “mean”, tell him what he said that hurt your feelings.
Our words both affect and represent our states of emotional and physical wellness, and words also have a huge impact on their recipients. If you weren’t raised in a supportive environment, create one for yourself now by giving yourself permission to try new things and grow from the experience. Positive internal thoughts and positive words reduce stress and have numerous physical benefits as well. It might not be possible to make everything easy by simply willing it to be, but remaining positive leads to healthier and more rewarding lives for you and everyone your words touch.
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