The Power of the Chosen Word- Part 2

words imageFollowing on from last week, here is the 2nd part of the article discussing the effects of  stress on our health, by Dr Shami.

Today, a fascinating look into how the power of the words we choose can affect our emotional state…and of course our lives, happiness and general wellbeing.

The Power of the Chosen Word

I listen to peoples’ stories every day. It comes with the job. It has allowed me to observe how individuals vary in their choice of emotion and hence reaction to life events. I guess, what I have noticed in particular is how the choice of words can influence the emotional response. This is in fact common knowledge. Stories are framed to generate an emotion. We see, hear and experience it daily through our influences in life. So perhaps, by choosing a different word, can we create a healthier emotion? Can we reframe the story we tell ourselves each day to reduce stress?

Today, I want to introduce you to 3 words in the English vocabulary that can have a powerful effect on our emotions.

Commonly used by our internal dialogue is the word “ best”. It’s used for a variety of tasks ranging from  “What’s the best place for dinner tonight?” to “What’s the best school for my child”.  Our problem solving skills are now put to the test as we try and live up to its rightful definition which according to the Webster English dictionary is “better than all others in quality or value”.

But what does “best” really mean to you? It is subjective and determined by individual experiences in life. What influences  your  “best” is constantly changing as we discover something new or different.  More importantly,  it doesn’t necessarily apply to those around us, who may have their own beliefs of what they consider better.

Hence, is it an unachievable goal that we can discard to make room for less stress in our lives? Perhaps we can reframe such questions to “ What would I like to eat today?” and “Which school will help my child flourish?”

The next word causing havoc with our inner self talk is “perfect”.  The definition keeps taking new forms as we encounter new experiences and make comparisons with others. Again,  the goal posts keep moving to meet our ever changing desires. This can force us to keep striving towards an end result which in fact lacks consistency or clarity.

A possible remedy to use when we are faced with making the “perfect” decision on tasks such as  buying the next sofa, choosing the next mobile phone or booking the next restaurant, is being ok with “good enough”. In todays world, we seem to be bombarded with an endless array of information to help us make a choice but in turn can exhaust the mind.  Can we lessen the load by realising “good enough”  has done a great job?

The final word is “should”. How many times have you used “should” today or this week? “He should have done the dishes”. “The house should be always clean”. “ They should be on time”. The “shoulds” of the world seem to have appeared alongside our very own defined rules of living.  It’s a personal and unique perception of the world that we strongly believe to be correct. It’s our story based on our own assumptions and understanding of life. What should happen in one household may not exist in another. Can we become flexible in our thinking and use  “would like to” instead?

In summary, “best” ,“perfect” and “should”, three words which can trigger a stress reaction as we try and live up to their rightful definition. Words that have entered our vocabulary to perhaps define our self worth? Our need for others to accept us? Our sense of having control of the world around us? Which brings us back to the concepts of acceptance, control, impermanence and expectations. The world is always changing, growing and influencing our thoughts. If we can create awareness of our thinking patterns and the words we use daily, we may lessen the impact of  stress in our lives.

Dr Shamistra Barathan

Integrative GP, Melbourne, Australia


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This article provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The words and other content provided in this article are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, you should consult with your medical practitioner. The views expressed in this article have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other institution with which the author is affliated.