How your choice of words can impact your health

Published 12:42 pm Monday, June 12, 2023

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Watch your words in your daily personal interactions. According to new research on how language and a positive mindset can improve brain health, our choice of words can impact how well we age, and how well we recover from illness. The power of positive thinking and visualization have been touted as valuable practices for many years, and now, there is even more evidence that using the right words at the right time is another way to improve our longevity.

The adage “you bring about what you talk about” is not new. For example, if you think you’re going to fail, you are more likely to do so. The power of optimism and positive thinking is well documented, particularly when it comes to pursuing goals. New research indicates positive language, the words we use, can make for a better mindset and outlook that can keep our brains and bodies healthier, and promote a more positive aging experience.

Until recently, researchers knew little about how to nurture optimism in someone facing a serious challenge, such as a health crisis. In studies conducted at Stanford University, researchers now better understand the interplay between optimism and physical health and recognize the importance of words in shaping a patient’s outlook toward the future. The report stated, “Our work shows that the mindset an individual adopts when tackling a challenge can significantly impact how easily they can imagine recovering, and also affect physiological outcomes like physical strength and endurance.”

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Prior research has shown the best way to achieve a goal is to focus less on the outcome and more on how you achieve the goal. This new research, which studied more than 1,300 subjects, including flood victims and patients battling cancer, shows that optimism can best be nurtured by understanding how a patient thinks about his or her health challenge and framing that challenge for the patient in a way that increases their chances of being hopeful about the outcome.

According to the study, understanding how people view the world can help define the best path to recovery. An “initiator” is a person who focuses on how they will act regardless of the situation and a “responder” is a person who focuses on how they’ll react to situations they encounter. Most of us tend to be more optimistic if we approach a crisis as an initiator rather than as responders.

The goal is to help steer patients toward the mindset that will benefit them most. Family members and health care professionals can influence mindset by helping patients frame and visualize their recovery process. This can also be done with seniors, encouraging them to view the aging process with a positive attitude. By using the right language and tapping the power of imagination and (visualization, researchers found that a person’s mental and emotional outlook improved, but so did their physiological performance, Optimistic people demonstrated better physical endurance and strength.

They also found that optimism seemed to prompt better health decisions. If people have a positive outlook on life, they seem more likely to take care of themselves, watch their diet, exercise more, take their vaccinations, and not miss medical checkups.  People with a positive outlook on aging also have a significant impact on their long-term brain health.

These studies show that positive thinking, brought about by positive language and visualization can be a powerful force in cultivating optimism. This optimism makes for a healthier mental outlook on life that can translate into better resilience and recovery when faced with illness, and ultimately can extend our lifespan. Attitudinal healing can lead to real physical healing and a better quality of life.

Ron Kauffman is a Consultant & Expert Speaker on Issues of Aging. He is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease.” You may contact him at (828) 696-9799 or