THE HEALING POWER OF WORDS
Have you ever had a crummy day suddenly improve simply because someone took time to pay you a compliment? Have you ever noticed how much better you feel after confiding in a trusted friend? Such is the power of the spoken word. Whether venting your own feelings to another or receiving a word of encouragement, the healing power of words can change your mental and physical state for the better.
Maya Angelou once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Scientific studies have repeatedly demonstrated a mind-body connection in which a positive message to the brain results in healing of the body. Messages of encouragement actually boost the immune system and promote production of endorphins, the "feel good hormones." This is the explanation behind the phenomenon known as the placebo effect, in which the patient experiences a reduction in suffering because the brain believes the medication will be beneficial.
Just as supportive words from others can make us feel better, our own spoken words can have a soothing effect on our mood. A recent psychological study from UCLA showed how naming emotions affects our brain activity. A group of thirty men and women viewed pictures of people displaying various emotions. While using MRI to scan their brains, these participants described what they saw by choosing from a predetermined list of words. When they chose words from a list that inaccurately described the observed emotions, the region of their brain responsible for preparing the body for stress showed a high level of activity. When they used words that correctly named the emotions, activity in the area involved in processing emotions and inhibiting behavior increased, while stress-related activity decreased. By demonstrating how we can reduce our physical response to an emotion by correctly naming it, this study provides us with a neurological explanation of why talking about our feelings has a calming effect on our mood.
Maybe John Donne understood this concept when he wrote, "No man is an island." It seems human beings do not do well in isolation; we need social interaction to ensure emotional stability. A recent US survey conducted over a 3-year period found traditional methods of social interaction such as marriage, friendships and church attendance reduced rates of depression significantly. Those that attended church services regularly experienced the largest reduction of all, 30%, over those that never attended services. Talking about our problems and receiving encouraging feedback from others helps us feel connected to something larger than ourselves. Without this connection, it is easy to fall prey to loneliness and depression.
So, regardless if you are venting or offering kind words of support, use the healing power of words to make yourself or someone else feel better.
International Journal of Social Psychiatry. October 21, 2013. "Social contacts and depression in middle and advanced adulthood: findings from a US national survey 2005-2008."
"Meditation XVII by John Donne." Accessed July 24, 2014. online-literature.com/donne/409/
Psychology Today. January 10, 2012. "The placebo effect: how it works."
Excerpted from Brain Sense by Faith Brynie, PhD
Science Daily. June 22, 2007. University of California - Los Angeles. "Putting feelings into words produces therapeutic effects in the brain." sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070622090727.htm
Article From Inter Valley Health Plan