How Words Affect Your Health


“Sticks and stones may break my bones…

but names can never hurt me.” These are the words of the childhood chant I’d use to counter the unkind taunts from kids at school. I didn’t realise at the time how words, whether my own or those of others, could affect my health.

These days I know a lot more about language. And I know why, despite my little rallying call, the words cut so deeply…

How you ‘make sense’ of words

You use your five senses to ‘make sense’ of what you’re told. You make a representation internally — in your mind — of the word you hear. For example, reading the word ‘dog’, your internal representation might be an image of a dog. You may recall a dog bark, the feel of a dog’s coat, or the smell of a dog. (Hopefully, there’s no taste unless it’s a hotdog!) You might also talk to yourself about a dog. Or all these modalities might be engaged to make sense of that one word.

These internal representations can change how you feel

Internal representations occur almost instantaneously, and for the most part unconsciously. You might only be aware of how you feel. The way you feel is the result of the internal representations you made in your mind in response to what was said or what you’re experiencing.

And this is why words wound

And this is how, in the slightly longer term, words affect your health and wellbeing. Click play and you’ll get some first-hand experience of the impact that words have on your body.

Positive words generally cause good internal representations, resulting in positive feeling states.


Watch what you say!

I’m sure, deep down you understand the impact of harsh language. And you have a better idea of how words affect your health. You are probably careful about what you say to others. But, whether you say the words out loud or say them to yourself, they still have an impact.

Are you also care-ful about what you say to yourself?

What type of words do you use when you talk to yourself?

Imagine how you’d feel each night, if you’d used negative language to yourself all day long. Long-term negative thinking contributes to depression and ill health.

On the other hand, positive conversations contribute to good health and well-being. Monitor your internal language using ‘Steph’s rule’ 🙂

What’s ‘Steph’s rule’?

Only talk yourself the way you’d talk to someone you really care about.

Keys to understanding healthy language

  • Words trigger what, in NLP terms are called, Internal Representations.
  • Internal representations involve one or more of your senses, and might also include self-talk.
  • Internal representations are your way of ‘making sense’ of the world.
  • Your internal representations can alter your emotional state and are often anchors.
  • Negative words cause negative internal representations and therefore bad feeling states.
  • Good words have the opposite effect.
  • If you want to feel good, talk to yourself the way you’d talk to someone you really cared about.
Tags: Health and wellbeing, Language, Podcasts and audio tips, Self-talk


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