Recent studies report fascinating results: The words we choose to use can literally alter our brain.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist at Thomas Jefferson University, and Mark Robert Waldman, a communications expert, collaborated on the book, “Words Can Change Your Brain.” In it, they write, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
When we use words filled with positivity, like “love” and “peace”, we can alter 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.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, when we use negative words, we are preventing certain neuro-chemicals from being produced which contribute to stress management. Each and every one of us are initially 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 are increasing the activity in our brain’s fear center (the amygdala), and 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.”
An excerpt from their book tells us how using the *right* words can literally change our reality:
“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.”
A study done by Positive Psychology further elaborates on the effects of using positive words. A group of adults aged 35-54 were given a nightly task of writing down three things that went well for them that day, including an explanation of why. The following three months showed their degrees of happiness continued to rise, and their feelings of depression continued to decline. By focusing and reflecting on positive ideas and emotions, we can improve our overall well-being and increase functionality of our brain.
What words do you choose to focus your energy on? If you notice your life isn’t exactly “peachy,” try carrying a journal with you to keep track of how often you use negative words. You may be surprised to find how simple the solution to a better life really is- change your words, change your life.