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3 Language Hacks To Promote Better Health

3 Language Hacks To Promote Better Health

Getting healthy is all about action, right? Move more, meditate, and eat better. But achieving your goals isn’t dictated entirely by your behavior. It’s influenced by your perspective, attitudes, confidence and commitment. And contrary to what you may think, these can be manipulated by something you’re probably not thinking too much about – your language.

The words we use can have a remarkable effect on behavior.

For example, clinical studies have shown that having patients engage in “change talk”, or talk that makes the case for why they should change, is associated with positive results that aren’t as apparent when someone else makes the case for them.

Take out the clinical setting and you’ve got a familiar scenario. Think back to the last time your mother, spouse, sister, friends, or colleagues lectured you about taking care of yourself, dumping that unhealthy relationship, or making that jump to a less stressful job. On a good day, you might call it annoying. And it probably has nothing on you making those same arguments to yourself.

Put simply – your words have power, and this can be leveraged to give your goals a needed boost. Below are three language tweaks to help you reach that healthier version of you.

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1. Switch from saying “I can’t” to “I don’t”

Goals often emerge in the form of wanting to break bad habits. Think: cutting out sugar, not drinking as much alcohol or not smoking those cigarettes. It’s about removing a behavior that was part of your identity, often tied to friendships, experiences, and your day-to-day routine.

When confronted with these once cherished items, we often utter the phrase “I can’t”.

Here’s a hypothetical example. You want to stop eating dessert, and someone at a party offers you a delectable-looking slice of cheesecake. What do you find yourself saying?

“Oh, I am sorry, I can’t.”

Then comes the expression of resignation, like you are already tired of yourself and your annoying, restrictive ways.

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Think about what this statement communicates: that you want to eat the dessert, but aren’t allowed to do so. And at some point, it will get harder and harder to deny yourself whatever it is that you want. It’s no wonder that so many attempts at breaking bad habits fail. Because we think – and talk – as if we are still in the mode of being that person that wants to engage in the behavior that we’re trying to quit.

Now consider a different scenario. When offered the cheesecake, instead of saying, “I can’t,” this is your response.

“I’m sorry, I don’t eat dessert.”

Hear the difference? One is focused on what you’re doing (in this example, restraining yourself from the full-fat goodness of a piece of cheesecake), and the other is about who you are as a person. In this last scenario, you aren’t holding yourself back. You are just the type of person that doesn’t eat dessert.

Studies show that whereas “I can’t” feels restrictive, “I don’t” is empowering and reframes your behavior as being consistent with your identity and values.

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The Hack

Identify a bad habit you’re trying to break – such as cutting out sugary foods, late-night snacks, excessive video gaming, or substance use. Try reframing yourself as someone that doesn’t partake in these activities, rather than someone who can’t partake. See how it feels to reconsider your action in this way, and then work on using the words “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” when tempted by whatever it is that you are trying to quit.

2.  Differentiate between what you “should do” versus what you “want” or “need” to do.

Now let’s consider that instead of trying to break a bad habit, you’re working to develop a new, healthy habit. In this scenario, you might speak in terms of what you “should” do. I should eat more vegetables. I should do more strength-training. I should take more time for myself. Etcetera. Etcetera.

“Should” doesn’t communicate a connection. It is rational, distant and may even convey reluctance and lack of desire. Something you “should do” is a behavior or action you would ideally do, in the best of circumstances, but maybe not now. In fact, probably not until way later or never. Because you just don’t care enough about it to put in the effort.

Contrast this with the phrase “I want to” or “I need to”. Studies show these words are associated with higher emotionality, which in this case signals a deeper connection to your goals and an urgency to pursue them.

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The Hack

When making goals, start to speak in terms of what you “want” or “need” to do, rather than what you “should” do. You may find that this brings your goals to the forefront. So instead of being something you’ll accomplish one day, you feel more motivated to pursue them now.

3. Use language that conveys a strong commitment to your goals

Whether it’s breaking a bad habit or developing a new healthy habit, commitment to your goals is crucial. Without commitment, you’ll find it easier to make up excuses or just let life get in the way of whatever it is that you want to accomplish.

How does this come out in language? People with a weak commitment to their goals may say they are “trying” to do something or “probably” will do something or even are just “thinking about” changing. Conversely, saying that you are “determined” or “dedicated” to changing your behavior resonates more strongly. The power of those words will likely influence not only the effort you put into pursuing your goals but how you navigate the inevitable challenges that you’ll face as you work towards a healthier lifestyle.

The Hack

Use words of determination and dedication to convey your commitment to your goals. Don’t just say them in your head – say them out loud. The experience of verbalizing your commitment will help you feel more empowered, connected and resilient in the face of setbacks.

Featured photo credit: Eli DeFaria via unsplash.com

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

Why It’s Never Too Late To Redefine Yourself

Why It’s Never Too Late To Redefine Yourself

The ability to reinvent and redefine yourself is a bold, daring and purposeful choice. It doesn’t just happen. You have to make a conscious, intentional choice and then follow through.

If the thought of forging a new path, changing habits, thought patterns and your inner circle of friends scares you – you’re not alone. Change can be a very scary thing. It takes courage, fortitude and a bit of faith to decide to shed your old self and don a new persona. However, it is one of the most critical processes one must repeatedly endure in the pursuit of destiny. Change unlocks new levels of potential.

The Need for Change

Everyday when we wake up, we make a decision. We decide to follow our routine or we decide to go off script and shake things up a bit. For those who are creatures of habit, routine is comfortable, easy and produces very little stress. The problem with this is, after a while you stop growing.

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We all reinvent ourselves at some point in our lives. It is absolutely necessary to achieve certain levels of success.

Reflect back on who you were as a teenager and then who you were at 25. Those are two very different people. Most of us are completely different. Your thought patterns changed, your appearance, job, level of education and even your friends– changed. We like to refer to this as “growing up” or maturing and consider it to be one of life’s natural progressions. However the changes you made were purposeful and deliberate.

This process must be a lifelong and continuous cycle. You are never too old to refresh yourself.

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    Signs It’s Time to Redefine

    “Just as established products and brands need updating to stay alive and vibrant, you periodically need to refresh or reinvent yourself.”– Mireille Guiliano

    So how do you know when it’s time for a system upgrade? There are signs along the way that alert you that it is time for an overhaul. The first sign is the feeling of being stuck. If you feel like you are in a rut, you’re bored with life or you need some newness and excitement, a self reinvention may be in order. Re-evaluate your life vision and your goals. Is that vision still valid and are your goals consistent with your vision and–are they achievable? If you are off course, it’s time for a change. If you are not moving forward and making progress, it’s time for a change.

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    In life, there’s no such thing as neutrality–you’re either moving forward or you are moving backward. Time constantly moves forward and if you are standing still, you are actually losing ground. No matter your age or stage in life– there is always room for improvement.

    “You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” ~C. S. Lewis

    The second sign that you are due for a change is the occurrence of major life events in which change is forced upon you. Getting married, starting a new job, being promoted, ending a relationship, becoming a parenting or relocating are all prime opportunities to completely overhaul your life.

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    When these major shifts occur in your life–you have to shift with them. You can’t have a single mentality and have a successful marriage. You can’t remain selfish and irresponsible, and raise a healthy, well-adjusted child. You can’t be promoted to a supervisory position and keep the same subordinate attitude. Each level of success requires something different from you.

    Aronld in Predator

      Consider, for a moment, Arnold Schwarzenegger. People may have different opinions about his character and some of his life choices, but he is a master at reinventing himself. He achieved the ultimate success as a professional body builder by earning the title “Mr. Universe” three times. He then earned a tremendous amount of fame and fortune in the entertainment industry making action/adventure films. And in his latest role, he served two terms as the Governor of California. He succeeded as a professional body builder, a film star and a politician. Each role required massive amounts of change, commitment, strength and hard work.

      And if Arnold can do it…so can you!

      Featured photo credit: BK via flickr.com

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