The Power of Kind Words
The words that we use are incredibly powerful. They can affirm certain beliefs that we have, or they can change the way that we see a situation. A while ago I underwent a stem cell treatment for a serious chronic illness. The following year was very rocky and my symptoms seemed to come and go. There were points when it felt like any progress I had made vanished overnight. At these times, the words I chose to say to myself really mattered. If I told myself things like, ‘you aren’t getting better’ or ‘the treatment isn’t working’, then not only did I feel physically sick but I would start to feel depressed and anxious and each symptom that appeared or re-appeared would cause utter panic. So I chose to re-frame my thinking. On days I felt worse I would tell myself ‘your body is producing inflammation as part of the healing process’ and ‘I am getting better and better.’ This had such a huge impact on my psychological state that it made me believe in the power of speaking kindly to ourselves and choosing our words carefully.
It turns out that science can back this up. In their book Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman write:
‘Certain positive words – like “peace” or “love” – may actually have the power to alter the expression of genes throughout the brain and body, turning them on and off in ways that lower the amount of physical and emotional stress we normally experience throughout the day’
Speaking kindly to ourselves and others can have a hugely beneficial impact on our lives. Sadly though, research as found that words like “love’, “patience”, “humility” and “kindness” are used 50 percent less in the modern era than they have been in the past. Simultaneously rates of depression in the West are skyrocketing. From 2005-15, cases of depression increased by almost a fifth and people born after 1945 are ten times more likely to suffer from depression than those born before.
I think that speaking kindly has become hugely underrated. Living in what can be an individualistic, success and image driven society, we can all lose sight of the things that really matter and the things that bring us real, lasting happiness. When we lose sight of these things it’s easy to feel disconnected, dejected and critical of ourselves. In this frame of mind, we are more likely to use unkind words in speaking to ourselves and when we talk to others. And these words spread unhappiness. Think of the last time someone said something unkind to you. Think how it made you feel. Now think of the last time someone said something kind – a compliment perhaps. If you can’t think of one, then give yourself a compliment right now. How does that make you feel? This is the power we all have to affect the world we live in and the people around us. As Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh has said:
‘The source of love is deep in us and we can help others realize a lot of happiness. One word, one action, one thought can reduce another person’s suffering and bring that person joy.’
Our words create and shape our reality so maybe just for today set yourself the challenge of speaking kindly and consciously trying to speak in a way that brings happiness to you and to others.
 Newberg, Andrew and Mark Robert Waldman, Words Can Change Your Life (Penguin; 2013) p.28