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3 Language Hacks To Promote Better Health

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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

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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