WORDS CAN HURT US

“Not too bad,” is a phrase I learned when I moved to Nebraska seven years ago.  I had never heard it before.  I was immediately struck by its negativity.  This is not a critique of Nebraskans, by the way.

As one who has taught stress management for the last thirty years, I pay attention to what people say because I know it affects how they feel, emotionally and spiritually.  If the best one can do is “Not too bad,” they’re in for a rough day.  I know, it’s not to be taken literally, but I do believe it is a negative statement which creates negative consequences.

I ask you to do the same experiment I asked my former students to do.  For the next two weeks, when someone asks how you are, even if it is just a polite greeting, answer two levels above what you are actually feeling.  Never answer with less than, “Fair to middlin’.”  That’s actually a grade of cotton which is just about in the middle.  Not wonderful but better than not too bad.  If you respond with things like, “Great,” “Wonderful,” or “Couldn’t be better,” you will notice that you begin to believe it.  If life really is good, you can always use the old standby, “Yo encantado de la vida!” which translates, “I am enchanted with life!”  Try that on for a while and see what happens.  Your friends will also be impressed with your command of Spanish.

When we don’t expect the day to get better, it usually doesn’t.  When we think the best relationship we can have with our universe is “Just fair” it often is.  If we expect “Yo encantado de la vida!” well, it just may be.  What do we have to lose—unless, of course, we’re addicted to feeling down?  An attitude like that can also impact our body in a number of negative ways.

Norman Vincent Peale isn’t the first person to grasp the power of positive thinking.  Most civilizations, present and past, have proverbs about the importance of being positive rather than negative.  Almost all holy writ, regardless of the religion, encourages positiveness.  Don’t we all feel amped by saying things like Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukah or Merry Christmas?  Other faiths have equivalent statements.  You can’t beat an “Allah Akbar!” “Praise God!” “A tamshi la tambiko!” or “Wow! what a sunset!”  You just feel better for having said it.

Did you know, positive thoughts release healing chemicals into our body and negative thoughts release toxic chemicals?  If you don’t believe me, consult your local chemist.  It almost sounds too easy.  It can be viewed as overly simplistic.  And yet, it improves our life, physically and spiritually.

What do you have to lose, besides some bad chemicals and negative attitudes?  Go ahead; try it for a couple of weeks.  I double dog dare ya’.

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