As it’s finally Summer in NYC, I’ve been spending a fair amount of time writing outside. Around me, a handful of writers punch away at their laptops in a meditative, mechanical, or manic state. Some write poems, some write songs, others write angst-driven memoirs. But there’s one writer I’ve become quite fond of. Not because of the work he creates. In fact, it reads like it was written for children. Instead, I enjoy how he powerfully chooses words that shape his life.
Words have more power than we recognize. They crystallize our perception of the world, strengthening our beliefs, creating our emotions, and guiding our behaviors.
It’s clear that my friend's happiness is shaped by his command of language. It’s not that he’s always positive or sugarcoats everything in rainbows and butterflies. It’s that his words evoke a productive emotional response rather than one that dwells in uncertainty, pain, or fear. In essence, he paints his life by how he frames it.
Life is a flow of energy more than a linear stream of events or a collection of tangible things. Sometimes our moods change even when nothing in the external world has. If we choose to, we can play an active role in this flow. If we remain conscious to our emotions and energy, we can make choices that create the state we desire by reframing a negative situation in a new light. And from that elevated state, we are more equipped to bring good into our lives rather than repeating unhealthy patterns.
It’s all in how we frame it.
For example, on Friday I told myself “shit’s falling apart.” By Sunday I was able to say “shit’s being re-arranged to come together more perfectly.” One can also choose not to use the word, “shit” but that’s not the choice I like to make.
So how does this happen?
As a curly-haired woman dealing with Spring rains, I can’t tell you how many times the phrase, “I hate my hair” came out of my mouth. I soon realized that I started to believe my flippant phrase. I was using throw-away statements as unconscious yet powerful incantations. Plus, I think it made my hair rebel and hate me back, but that’s a metaphysical conversation for another time.
Remember practicing your times tables? We drilled them into our head by repetition. The same is true for the words we use out of habit. The more that we hear, read, or speak a word or phrase, the more valid we feel it is. Our mind doesn’t distinguish fact from fiction, it believes what it is exposed to the most. Neurologically, we create a loop through selective pruning to re-emphasize these beliefs. Considering how often we call ourselves “stupid” or “ugly,” it’s no surprise that we brainwash ourselves into a false self-image.
The trick to shifting our language is our ability to bring our unconscious narrative to the conscious level where choice resides. While that may not happen overnight, there are 5 simple ways to get started:
- Start with what you notice. When you recognize negativity creep up, non-judgmentally rephrase your statement. (I’ll never make this happen vs. Each day I’m taking steps in the right direction)
- Cut down on name-calling, labeling yourself, and blanket statements. Choose to say words to yourself that you’d say to your best friend. (I’ll be alone forever vs. I’m the one I’ve been waiting for or I’ll meet the right person at the right time)
- Quit being the butt of a joke. Stop using your body, your accomplishments or anything else as a punch line. You may have a sense of humor, but your self-esteem does not.
- Don’t gossip. Just step away from the water-cooler conversation. Commenting on others hurts you more than them.
- Choose words that actually mean something. Instead of “That meal was fine.” Or “It’s nice outside,” use words that are uplifting, descriptive, and evoke a positive emotional response and sensory experience. This helps the brain to loop back to a place of hope, love, and optimism. (The concert was good vs. The concert was exciting, engaging, and fun.)
Ultimately, you have the ability to create your world. The words you choose have power because whether or not you realize it, you’re listening intently.
Change your words, change your life.
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