Your Words Do Matter

Negative, angry and critical words cause emotional and physical damage, not only to the listener, but to the speaker. A single negative word, whether spoken to a stranger, a friend or a family member, can leave a lasting impression that might never be erased. Negative words create negative attitudes, destroy relationships and block communication. For children, the effects are more serious. Studies have found that connections between the left and right sides of the brain are underdeveloped in adults who were verbally abused as children by their parents or by peers.  

Some people justify angry behavior by claiming that they need to express feelings of being frustrated, stressed, or under pressure. In fact, speaking negative words to others causes physical changes in your own brain that can affect your well-being. Neurologists have found that vocalizing a negative word such as "no" immediately releases a flood of stress-producing hormones that interrupt normal brain function and impair your ability to think logically, reason, process language and communicate. This is believed to be linked to a "flight response" that helped our ancestors survive by reacting instantly to dangerous situations. 

Thinking and speaking negative thoughts over and over can permanently damage parts of your brain that regulate your memory, emotions, appetite, and sleep patterns. Feelings of anxiety and sadness increase, and the ability to experience long-term satisfaction decreases. Unfortunately, thinking and saying positive words does not have the same dramatic effect on your brain. You need to speak a positive word multiple times to counteract the effect on your brain of one negative word.

Controlling or eliminating negative words and actions has a positive effect on your overall health. Research shows that a positive attitude reduces the occurrence of heart disease, improves immune responses, and is associated with making healthier lifestyle choices. Here are some tips;

Understand yourself. Ask yourself why you feel so angry or negative. Are you hungry, tired, disappointed, late, or upset by something that happened at work? Instead of saying unkind words to the person in front of you, look for a positive way to alleviate the source of your distress.

Smile (even a fake smile). A study by the University of Kansas showed that the physical act of smiling lowers blood pressure and slows the heart rate during times of stress.

Be polite. Everyone likes to be treated with courtesy and respect. Showing consideration for others creates a positive environment.

Be aware of the whole situation. An employee serving a long line of customers at the deli counter or post office is under a lot of pressure. A waiter who forgets your order could be new on the job. Remember when you might have been in a similar situation. By being tolerant and understanding, you make it easier for them to do their job. 

Try an attitude adjustment and turn negatives into positives. Instead of fuming because you have to commute in heavy traffic, use the time to listen to music or podcasts. If you are short on money, appreciate the good things you have, such as the company of friends and family. 

Learning to control negative thoughts and avoid negative actions will result in more rewarding relationships and have a positive effect on your health and well-being.

Further reading:

Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress (www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950)

Sticks and Stones--Hurtful Words Damage the Brain (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-new-brain/201010/sticks-and-stones-hurtful-words-damage-the-brain)

The Most Dangerous Word in the World (www.psychologytoday.com/blog/words-can-change-your-brain/201208/the-most-dangerous-word-in-the-world

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