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Your Words Impact Your Well-Being

by Beth on July 16th, 2018

Last summer I heard a talk by Johannes Eichstaedt. He discussed the research he and his colleagues are doing as part of Penn’s World Well-Being Project. They are using language in social media to measure psychological and physical well-being around the world. It’s fascinating!

They analyze tweets to correlate words with outcomes. The difference among words that predict male versus female users is pretty funny. But on a more serious note, they have found associations between word use and things like depression and heart disease. Twitter can actually predict life satisfaction and positive emotions better than income.

The correlational nature of the research means it’s impossible to determine whether a situation leads to word choice or vice versa, but there is evidence that the words we use can impact our well-being. Your language influences your thoughts. If you tell yourself you are stressed, you are sending that message to your brain. Your brain will respond by secreting the stress hormone cortisol, and too much cortisol hurts your health by increasing inflammation. Constantly telling yourself you are stressed reinforces the neural networks associated with stress. This makes them stronger, which means your brain is more likely to generate stressful thoughts.

I read a study a few years ago where researchers found that telling people they had gotten a good night’s sleep positively impacted their performance, while telling them they had slept poorly had a negative impact on their performance. I used to spend the day complaining after a night of not sleeping well. Since reading about the study, I try my best not to think about it when I’ve slept poorly. I can definitely tell the difference. Not talking about how tired I am helps me feel more energized despite a lack of sleep.

In Words Can Change Your Brain, authors Newberg and Waldman explain how a single word can impact your brain. Positive words promote cognitive brain function, while negative words activate the fight-or-flight response, which hinders cognitive function.

We all know that our words can impact others. It’s also important to recognize the power that our words can have over our own well-being.

From → Mindset, Well-being

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