Like a smile can brighten our day, a happy “Hello!” can be a beautiful breeze that uplifts our spirits for a moment, a day, or lovingly linger for a lifetime. During holidays and any day, emotions can run high, and it’s ever-evident that the words we speak may be some of the greatest gifts that we give … and receive.
Scientifically-speaking, words can create health or disease.
The American Diabetes Association’s article, The Effects of Words on Health and Diabetes shows, “many studies have looked at the effect of words on other health states. Wang et al. (28) found that negative words induced anxiety and worry in postoperative patients. People who heard negative words had higher pain scores and secreted higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. A study of the effect of verbal styles showed that young drinkers consumed significantly more beer after hearing negative affect words, such as ‘anxious’ (29). In a study of the effect of negative words on pain during venous blood draws, participants reported significantly more pain after hearing negative words such as ‘sting’ or ‘beware’ (30). Puhl et al. (31) investigated perceptions of weight-related language … report(ing) that patients least liked the terms ‘morbidly obese,’ ‘obese,’ and ‘fat,’ f(inding) them the most stigmatizing. People may respond to these terms by feeling bad about themselves, continuing unhealthy behaviors, not returning for health care appointments … and decrease(d) motivation (32).”
“Negative words can trigger a stress response. Activated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, (it) releases corticosteroids–hormones that can lead to: elevated blood glucose levels, stress hormones, inflammatory and immune-suppressive properties (34, 35). Elevated blood glucose levels also contribute to inflammation, increased risk of infection, and decreased wound healing….”
Words can harm.
As in everyday life, the ADA’s article lists that, “language is not necessarily blatantly or purposively abusive, and it is likely that health care professionals have no idea how their words can hurt.” Although every individual’s words are their responsibility, each of us can become more res¬ponsible to administering our words with the intent to bring health and joy.
My experience with kind and critical words.
At thirty, I realized that I was unable to recall kind words and compliments. After introspection, I realized that I equated complimentary words with lies and manipulation. As a result, I unconsciously chose to a) not believe kind words and b) believe that I was unworthy of genuinely-kind words. This made me vulnerable to both verbal abuse and narcissistic love-bombing, which reinforced both beliefs. Rather than fighting external issues, or heading to a Ph.D. and a pharmacy, I healed my worst enemy, the one who spoke words to wound within.
My tips and tidbits to inspire.
Tip 1. Be aware of the words we say to ourself.
Tidbit: This means I do not do the things that impair my ability to be aware. For me, that’s been over-work and dramatic relationships. I say yes to health and peace now.
Tip 2. Reframe words to give ourself a pep talk.
Tidbit: Rather than allowing myself to listen to my inner critic (nicknamed “Ick”) talk about my to-do list, I take a deep breath and say the following words aloud. There is always time to do what’s meant to be done. And when “Ick” tempts me to “help” others who employ neediness to feel better, I take a deep breath and say aloud, I freely choose peace.
Tip 3. Disown the critical words of others, by reflecting on my beliefs.
Tidbit: Decades ago during an argument with my mate, I learned a tremendous lesson. Because I did not believe his first comment that I was “stupid,” I didn’t feel bothered. Because I did believe his second comment that I was fat (although by medical standards I was underweight), I felt wounded. I learned that my beliefs allowed me to feel wounded. I now change my beliefs by changing my words and actions.
Tip 4. Heal wounds from within.
Tidbit: Life can help us at every turn, but it is our free will, our willingness, openness and earnestness that allow healing to occur. We grow and transform by choice.
Tip 5. Select the right tool for the job.
Tidbit: I need FUN, good “feels,” and “deep dives.” For fun, I shuffle and select a word affirmation card. It gets me out of my head and present with life’s game of chance. Seeing the pictures on side one gives me uplifting feelings. Seeing the words on side two solidifies the feeling shift. I also use two journals—one contains genuinely wonderful words said to me, and the other is for a deeper dive into expressing and transforming thoughts and feelings. I find that referring to these journals during moments of discouragement has been instrumental.
Word medicine can heal our world, nations, families and self.
The prolific dissemination of disingenuine, unkind words appears to condone the resulting harm. Whether within politics, propaganda, parents or personal denial, lies beget mistrust. Without trust, we live in fear, anxiety, rebellion and violence.
My yearning for genuine, kind words, within and amongst humankind for the benefit of All, is as real to me as life itself. This yearning gave birth to a passion, which conceived 13 books and a deck of cards to support this very cause. For although we cannot control what others say, we can, with care and practice, control the words we say to ourself and others. As Ghandi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world,” and we may begin today, by saying, I can speak my truth kindly.
It’s up to each of us.
Will we allow ourself to feel smaller and less capable so that insecure people will feel more important? As difficult as it can be to live through the trials of life itself, I’ve found it to be even more difficult to live with people who wield words like war. A gift of wisdom and love, words can be a tugboat and tide, guiding us to wise decisions. If the people around us would rather that we make our decisions based on what they think, and what they believe, they have arrogantly placed their fear above wisdom and love. The fantastic news is, each of us have the power to speak new words of love and wisdom, to ourself.
Could word affirmations help you?
Here are 10 tips:
- When we remember harsh words, we feel pain, shame, or agony now.
- We feel a nagging lack of worthiness. We do not feel worthy to receive love, care, attention, affection, gifts and compliments.
- When we think of someone, we think of their hurtful words.
- Anger from past criticisms is a reason for revenge.
- We don’t believe compliments and refuse gifts.
- We hold our breath a lot. When emotions rise in a situation, we hold our breath in fear and our body becomes rigid like a shield, to protect ourself from harsh words.
- We have difficulty getting close to others and having deep conversations. We are afraid that the words of others will attack us or reveal us in a way that invites attack.
- We never feel good enough. Because we believe what others said about us.
- We avoid personal growth. If we unconsciously believe that we are not good, we don’t want to grow that.
- We feel afraid to get to know who we are. If other people said we were not worthy: of love, care, attention, affection, etc., we may have believed them. If so, it may initially hurt terribly as we connect with that part of ourself, in order to heal the pain of that lie. However, once we connect, on the other side of that pain, is the love and bliss we long to experience. Pain is the portal to truth and love.
What say ye?
Will you be affirmed? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section, so we may learn together …
Always with love,