How powerful are words? What happens when we hear negative versus positive words? Can we really have negative effects on our health based on negative words or thoughts? There is an amazing effect on our actual brain chemistry when we listen to either positive or negative words. Learning the answers to these questions will greatly impress on you the power that words can have on your brain!
Growing up in a household and hearing negative words and phrases about yourself can be very dangerous. It can cause you to begin to change the way you live your life. If your brain feels that you have a function or personality trait that is bad, it will think it has to suppress, change, or stop doing whatever it is. When that happens, you will start to push yourself to work outside of your natural area of your brain and spend 100 times as much energy and have low self-esteem on top of that. There is nothing more damaging to anyone’s self-esteem or measure of self-worth than the insignificant or negative things said to them by the significant people in their life. Hearing these things can begin to mold your brain in certain ways and cause you to work hard to develop traits that are not natural to you. We work hard for that because we want to be accepted. It is hard to become something you are not naturally gifted to be, and you may beat yourself up because of that.
What studies have been done to prove the negative effects that negative words have on your brain? A FMRI (Functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner) allows neuroscientists and scanning technicians to be able to actually watch your brain as you are functioning and see what goes on in the brain as thoughts go through your head. While in the FMRI, flashing the word “No”, for less than 1 second, can change the chemistry of your brain and release dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters that hit the brain. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal function of your brain. Simply seeing the word “No” can instantly stress out your brain. The effects of this chemical bath impair ability to think logically and reason! In comparison, seeing a list of negative words for a few seconds in the FMRI, can make a highly anxious or depressed person feel worse and damage key structures in their brain the more focus they give the words. This stress affects your flight or fight response, your sleep and appetite, either increasing or decreasing it. All of this can happen just from seeing a few words! When reading something, you hear those words in your brain or mind. In the long term, hearing negative words can affect your happiness, career, satisfaction with life and your physical health.
What if you hear negative words instead of just seeing them? Spoken with anger or negative vocal influx, those words now will do even more damage to the brain. Those words interfere with the decision-making portion of your brain, causing you to act irrationally. In terms of the brain, what is constantly repeated has the power to change our mind. If those things are negative, the effect will be negative.
What are some of the negative things you were told? A single word that is negative can produce stress hormones in your brain and wreak havoc on areas of your brain that need to work functionally. If you were raised constantly being shamed for your natural gifts in your brain, you might have beaten yourself up for it. Those same things may be what you beat yourself up for now that you are an adult. Those words or phrases are debilitating to the brain and make negative things go on inside of it. So, what do we need to do to help stop this negative thinking? We need to switch it to the positive! Positive words have the exact opposite effect of negative ones. You will need to interrupt the pattern of negative processing in your brain. To do that, you will need to actively take steps. Positive words will alter your brain in a positive way. A positive view of yourself will bias you to seeing good in others and the positive in the world! The brain responds faster to negative words and thoughts instead of positive words. You can flip the negative and change it by holding positive and optimistic words in your head. You may be able to takes what has been told to you and put a positive spin on it. Doing so, will help interrupt that wiring that is negative in your brain and stop it. Barbara Frederickson feels that for every one negative thought or word, you have to replace it with at least three words or thoughts on the positive side. You can change the way your brain is sculpted and wired by saying these positive things.
What can we take from all of this? Remember to pay attention to yourself and what you say to yourself in your brain. Look at what you were criticized for and change that negative statement and flip it into something positive. It takes work but list what you are gifted at. Second, really make your words work for you. Consciously think about the words you are using throughout the day. At the end of day, think about the message and words you put out that day and thought about. Change those negative words and thoughts into positive ones! Third, really try to not name call or beat yourself up for anything. We all have problems we deal with but that does not mean anything is wrong with us. Try to go on a negativity diet by stopping saying and thinking negative things and change those into the positive by surrounding yourself with positivity! Recall that we are naturally gifted in one way or another, so own it and try to be the best you can be!
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Written by Rebecca Younger | Staff blog writer