Looking for new ways to increase your happiness levels? Well, Phil Parker believes the secret could lie in your choice of words…
Recent research found when we use words connected to pain, like ‘burning’, ‘intense’, ‘sore’ it increases activation of the parts of your brain that produce pain and makes our experience of pain stronger and others found that the kinds of language people used on twitter was the best predictor of whether they’d get heart disease – yes, their choice of words were a better predictor than knowing if they smoked, had diabetes, were obese or any other known marker. So words have power over our health and happiness and the good news is it’s really easy to change, so you can use your words to get better health and dramatically increase happiness.
Try these 10 simple tips
1 Avoid using negatives
Avoid words and phrases that trigger negative thinking, like ‘I HATE that’, ‘it’s all going to go HORRIBLY WRONG‘, ‘I’m so WORRIED about this’. These get our brain thinking about hate, doubt and concern.
Instead swap these words for positives. So ‘I hate that’ becomes ‘I don’t love that’ – swap judgements about ‘it going wrong’ and ‘worry’, which are guesses about things that haven’t actually happened yet anyway, for positive expectations, that things will be even better than hoped.
2 Steer clear of negative wants
Often when people are asked the life changing question ‘What do you want?’ a ‘negative want’ answer pops up like “not this”. This, similarly to negatives of the previous section, cause problems which can be experienced through the trying out the Einstein exercise.
For the next 2 seconds I would like you to not think about Albert Einstein riding a drunken purple goat…
Did you notice what happened when you tried?
You brain thought about Albert Einstein and his drunk goat. This is because the brain can’t directly process ‘negatives’ such as ‘don’t think about Albert Einstein’, without first understanding the instruction, and thinking about it.
As a result an instruction with a negative always has completely the opposite effect that the one that it was designed to get.
So often you will hear people say, ‘I’m not at all negative, I spend all my time making sure I am not stressed’.
Watch out for these and turn them into positives too.
3 Root out hidden negatives
These are words that seem, at first glance, really positive but actually trigger the brain negatively as they refer to negative state, but without mentioning them directly.
A good example is “I want to be FREE” – this sounds great! But in this case it’s highlighting you want to be free FROM something. This draws our attention back again to what it is want to be free from, often oppression, stress etc. which switches our brain into the less happy places. Good examples to watch out for being brave, bold, courageous, and in control, all things you’d only need if you were facing something difficult, which makes your brain focus again on the difficulty.
4 Distance yourself from ‘why?’ questions
It sounds a bit counterintuitive as we are so familiar with using the ‘why?’ question but so often it’s the wrong question to ask, look at these examples…
Why did you not take the trash out
Why don’t you love me
Why are you always so critical
Why do I always make these kinds of mistakes
As you can see the kind of answers we get from these questions aren’t really that useful, and focus on the past, the problem and finding who is to blame. Avoid this trap by just asking a ‘How?’ question instead, notice how these examples move life on much more quickly than the ‘why’ question
How can we get the trash taken out regularly
How can I find new love
How can I deal with this criticism and more positive way; how can communicate to you that criticism isn’t the most useful way of supporting me
How can I start afresh
5 Avoid should & shouldn’t conditions and views
6 Free yourself from thinking (and saying) any musts/mustn’ts
7 And anything that involves and ought to/ought not to
8 Or any needs
5, 6, 7 and 8 are all trigger words are really important to spot, and although they are different in the way they can stifle your life, they have common solutions and so are grouped together here.
Whenever you find yourself saying
‘I/you should do this’ or ‘I/you shouldn’t do this’,
‘I/you must do this’ or ‘I/you mustn’t do this’
‘I/you ought to do this’ or ‘I/you ought not do this’
‘I/you have to do this’ or ‘I/you need to do this’
just pause for a moment, and ask yourself two questions:
‘according to who?’ – who says I should/shouldn’t, must/mustn’t etc?
In response to statements like ‘I should’ ask ‘what would happen if I didn’t?’, and in response to statements like ‘I shouldn’t’ ask ‘what would happen if I did?’
Using these questions allows you to work out where these rules come from if they still apply, and what you find is most of the time their old out-dated rules that you don’t need the follow any more.
‘I must ring that friend (that I don’t really want to be friends with any more, that’s why I haven’t rung them for ages)…’
The ‘according to who?’ Question allows you to recognise that this is some social norm that somebody taught you about being polite or not letting people down, but when you re-evaluate it you may find in this case it’s not the appropriate thing to do.
When you ask ‘what would happen if I didn’t ring them?’ the answer is that the friendship would fizzle out in the way you probably (both) hope it would.
Free yourself from old rules and being guilted into behaviours that you don’t want to do by spotting these important words.
9 Avoid generalisations
Behind all generalisations, bigotry, sexism, racism and any other –ism are ‘alls’.
All Brits are…
All women are…
All men are…
All those into self help are…
And although they may be a grain of truth for some of the generalisations, for some people, some of the time, they become adopted as truths rather than not very accurate opinions.
Occasionally the alls are replaced by other words such as never, ever, nobody, etc, even more sneakily sometimes the key warning word is even deleted:
Men are… Women are…
We might be quite good at spotting these kinds of generalisations about populations, but we are often less good at spotting them when we used about ourselves, ‘I’m never any good at this’, ‘this always happens to me’
These kind of statements lulls into believing this is actually true when majority of the time it isn’t, so take the time to catch these damaging ways of thinking.
10 Never, ever say can’t
Closely aligned to the alls is the ‘can’t’- this is where we have, or somebody else has, stated something is just not possible. Now sometimes of course this is correct, certain things aren’t possible (at least yet), but too often this limitation is not accurate needs to be challenged.
Is eaisest way to do this is to ask yourself ‘is this totally impossible?’ If it isn’t totally impossible then by definition it must be possible, just a question of finding a way to do it.
‘I can’t be confident in front of group people’ – is it completely impossible; so if you had some brilliant training, some excellent hypnosis, NLP or coaching from an expert, some amazing mentoring, a friendly crowd or something so important to say you’d make it happen, would it be possible then? You can noticed with some simple questioning it becomes clear that this is not impossible and therefore potentially possible.
There is so much more I could discuss about the power of language but this is a great starting point and should keep you busy for a while because you will notice just how many of these patterns you or other people around you use. I’d recommend not trying to coach other people on their problem language, as most of us don’t like unrequested advice! – but instead begin by changing your own language, and notice how easier life is as a result and how much simpler it is to deal with others, too.
About the author
Phil Parker is an renowned lecturer, therapist and innovator in the field of personal development. His training as a hypnotherapist, executive coach, certified master practitioner of NLP and osteopath give this book a unique perspective and provide new solutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of life in the 21st century. He’s also the author of four book,s including Get the Life You Love Now (Hay House).