The words we use can literally change our brains. Great leaders have used the power of words to transform our emotions, to enlist us in their causes, and to shape the course of destiny. When Winston Churchill spoke of “their finest hour” or when Martin Luther King, Jr. described his “dream”, we clearly saw that their beliefs were formed by words – and that they could also be changed by words.
But what about our own ability to use words to ignite change, to move ourselves to action, and to improve the quality of our lives? We all know words provide us with a vehicle for expressing and sharing experiences with others. But do you realize that the words you habitually choose also affect how your brain reacts on a physiological level?
Speaking positive words leads to positive thoughts
In their 2012 book, “Words Can Change Your Brain”, authors Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman state that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
Put another way, when we use positive words like “love” and “peace”, we can alter how our brain functions by increasing cognitive reasoning and strengthening areas in our frontal lobes. Using positive words more often than negative ones can kick-start the motivational centers of the brain, propelling them into action.
Likewise, when we use negative words, we’re keeping certain neuro-chemicals from being produced which contribute to stress management. As humans, we’re hardwired to worry; it’s how our primal brain protects us from dangerous situations for survival.
So, when we allow negative words and concepts into our thoughts, we’re increasing the activity in our brain’s fear center, causing stress-producing hormones to flood our system. These hormones and neurotransmitters interrupt the logic and reasoning processes in the brain and inhibit normal functionality. 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.”
How using the “right” words can literally make you happier
An excerpt from the authors tells us that “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.”
According to According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the world’s leading researchers on happiness, if you want to”>Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the world’s leading researchers on happiness, if you want to develop lifelong satisfaction, you should regularly engage in positive thinking about yourself and do so by sharing your happiest events with others – through language. If you use your words – your inner dialogues and your conversations with others – to engage in optimism and positivity, you’ll find yourself moving in a more life-enhancing direction.