With so much uncertainty facing people regarding work, school, financial stability, wedding plans, and so much more, many are feeling stressed, overwhelmed and some are even feeling hopeless about the future. What we tell ourselves about what is happening in our world has a big bearing on how we feel and how we inspire others to feel.
Regularly calling something a disaster in your mind can make it harder to recover from. We all know how words can impact others from hearing and saying different things.
In their book, 'Words Can Change Your Brain', the authors Newberg and Waldman explain how a single word can affect your brain. Positive words encourage cognitive brain function, while negative words activate our fight-or-flight response, which slows cognitive function. They say: 'a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.'
In these times of uncertainty, negative words particularly in relation to COVID can easily heighten peoples uncertainty and stress around the future. I was in two virtual meetings last week where people were asked not to use the new 'C' word. This may provide temporary relief but only if you stop thinking and speaking the words in your mind and stop connecting them with overwhelmingly negative outcomes.
While there is a lot of uncertainty in the world, there are also many things that we can control. While there are stresses, challenges and difficulties, there are also silver linings.
Science shows us that catastrophizing language like: 'We will never recover from this. Or 'This is a complete disaster' can negatively affect our mental and emotional health whilst positive words can have positive benefits. Over time our mind believes what we are saying to ourselves. Optimistic words prime us to see a brighter future. And negative ones keep us stuck.
While words do not change reality, they can enable us to have a more or less constructive and resourceful viewpoint and they can also influence our resilience or our ability to bounce back after difficulties. Positive words build resilience and calm the body. Negative ones generate fear. Our internal narrative also affects how we communicate with others which in turn influences how those around us feel about their lives and future.
Being positive isn't about pretending things are fantastic when they are not. That is delusion. But it is about being open to and looking forward to things getting better. Negativity generates internal stress in the body and a feeling of hopelessness. This adversely affects motivation. Positive thinking reduces our heart rate and enables us to recover from anxiety more easily. Even one negative word triggers fear and all the sensations that come with that.
It is not just our own words. Over the years, there is also plenty of evidence about how the media influences people's mental and physical health, both intentionally, through public health campaigns, and unintentionally. Walsh-Childers and Brown.
Next time you think about the new 'C' word, Instead of thinking this is a xxxx, see what good things are coming out of it for you and your family. Think and talk about them too.