Words are our essence and form the basis of our relationships.
Last update: Augusts 15, 2020
Studies have shown that words cause different reactions in the brain. The destructive ones, for example, increase the production of the stress hormone. The uplifting ones, on the other hand, lead to a greater secretion of the feel-good hormones.
We often repeat phrases such as "The words if the wind blows them away" or "They are just words", in light of the developments in the theory of language that took place during the twentieth century. Today we know that words are real means of communication and people are "walking talk".
We are all made of words, which are nothing but the materialization of ideas. And ideas materialize culture. We relate to ourselves, to others and to the environment through culture, ideas and words. For this reason, the latter are part of the essence of the human being, with a rather significant impact.
"A single word can influence the genes that regulate physical and emotional stress."
The only words that the wind takes away are those that do not concern us. Those that instead have to do with us, or with our scenarios, count and how. They don't fly away, they stay there, shaping our feelings and emotions, until they reach our consciousness. We can say that verbal expressions are as important as facts.
Language and its impact on the brain
One of the most interesting assumptions of neuroscience is that each word generates different reactions in the brain. Positive and negative verbal expressions trigger quantifiable changes. One of the most comprehensive studies in this regard is the one conducted by psychiatrists Mark Waldman and Andrew Newberg, authors of the book Words can change your brain.
The book demonstrates some curious brain reactions triggered by the words "yes" and "no". When a sentence begins with the word "no", the brain begins to secrete more cortisol, the stress hormone. In turn, if the sentence begins with "yes", there is an increased production of dopamine, the feel-good hormone.
On the same wavelength, a study conducted by Friedrich Schiller University has shown that affectionate and positive expressions activate the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex of the brain, an area linked to self-consideration and emotional decision making.
Positive and negative words
We call "negative words" those that carry a violent or aggressive message and that, in one way or another, are destructive. Apparently, they have a much stronger and more lasting impact than positive expressions.
Just think that by reading a list of negative words, anxiety levels increase. Examples are "death", "sickness", "sadness", "pain", "misery", etc.
Some studies argue that the effect of a negative word is not the same as that of a positive one. This aspect is particularly accentuated when the negative term in question is expressly addressed to the person and to her characteristics. To soften the effect of a negative word, it takes at least five positive ones. An excuse is not enough. We must do much better.
Interesting phenomena were also observed in the workplace. It has been shown, for example, that if an employee often receives words of appreciation and appreciation for the work done, he tends to become more and more tied to his own work activity and is led to be more cooperative and productive.
Be careful what you say
A person gets to say an average of 70.000 words a day. Being such a frequent and daily act, we cannot underestimate its value. After all, as we have said, words are our essence and form the basis of our relationships. Correct use of words has great potential to make our lives better or worse.
It is very important, therefore, to pay attention to the way we use language. Especially in situations of tension, conflict or malaise. In these cases, we must pay attention not only to what we say to others, but also to what we say to ourselves. Sometimes, we simply need a moment of silence to find the right terms to better express what we think or feel.
The potential of words is enormous. Colombian psychiatrist Carlos Cuéllar suggests starting and ending your day by thanking you for being alive. This simple gesture is enough to considerably improve our physical and mental health. We transform our language into an ally for our personal well-being and not a trap.