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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 September 18, 2020

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

“We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

“It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

1. Take a step back and evaluate

When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
  3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
  4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
  5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

4. Process your thoughts/emotions

Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

  1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
  2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
  3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
  4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

5. Acknowledge your thoughts

Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

6. Give yourself a break

If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

As Helen Keller once said,

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
  3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
  4. Take action on your next steps!

After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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