On the Sanguine Blog, I’ve written about new perspectives on illness, managing relationships and stress, facing COVID-19 with chronic illness, and more. These are all very important topics, but now I want to go deeper. In today’s article, I’d like to share one of the most important aspects of my journey to wellness that anyone can implement. I am going to zero in on one small shift that can have a huge impact on harnessing health and healing- words and language.
It is absolutely crucial that you watch your language. The body is always listening, right down to a single cell. This happens in a number of ways which I’ve written about in the past so I’ll just do a quick review. Our body is 70% water and water molecules actually change structure in response to different words. The words that are best for your body are connected to positive feelings, like love, gratitude, forgiveness, and joy.
The other way the body listens is through the subconscious. The body processes everything our subconscious is interpreting and acts on that information. This happens through a variety of mechanisms in the brain, the immune system, and the mind (the study of which is called psychoneuroimmunology).
What you need to know today is that your subconscious does not hear the word not. It doesn’t hear “negatives” when you talk to yourself. Let me explain. When you say “I don’t want to be sick anymore” the subconscious doesn’t hear “don’t.” It hears “sick.” When you say “I don’t want to still have pain,” the body hears “I am still in pain.” So that is what the cells hear through the filter of the subconscious. As a result, the cells align to the message or energy of pain and illness.
I know firsthand how common it is to utter sentences like that out loud or in our mind when living with illness. I lived with MS symptoms for 18 years and said things like that all the time. Unfortunately, that just furthers dis-ease (yes that hyphen is on purpose).
So what do you do?
There are levels of response that you can implement and it can take time to learn each one. But, if you can start practicing at level one today, your body will hear that and you will be doing yourself a great service. Below is a guideline on how to implement this. Of course level 3 is the best way to immediately make a powerful impact on your body and change your life but it’s just as important to implement this shift at your own pace which is why I’ve included levels 1 and 2 as training wheels, so to speak, so that you can work your way up to level 3.
Level 1: Observe
Simply start to notice your language. It’s OKAY if you still say some of negative these things. Just notice your words, observe your language and thoughts. When you do talk about how sick you feel, just notice it. Becoming aware is a crucial first step in order to move to the next levels and get really good at this. Next, notice how it makes you feel when you say it. We tend to think that we need to express and “vent” a feeling like that. But tune in and see if you actually feel any better after having said it. You likely won’t feel very good or even get a sense of relief after that sentence. While you are entitled to your feelings, you are also sick of being sick. So you have to make a choice. Choose if you prefer to express your feelings as they are right now, or choose if you want to work toward creating a healthy future. There’s no right or wrong and there’s no need to judge your choice. That said, I really encourage you to push yourself to get out of your comfort zone and make your healthy future more important than the current need to “vent.” That serves a momentary need compared to long term results.
Level 2: Avoid Negative Words and Thoughts
Avoid expressing how terrible you feel. You don’t want your body to hear the message of illness and then align with it or continue it. So just start to notice when you do want to express how poorly you feel or what you don’t want to keep feeling and try to catch yourself before you say the sentence. When you hold back you might feel like you aren’t letting something out or expressing a feeling. That can be uncomfortable and you don’t want to linger in the feeling for too long since your cells will hear that too. So when you catch yourself, immediately focus on something positive. My go-to is to immediately name three things I’m grateful for. Ideally this level of watching your language looks something like this:
Step 1: You have a thought, “ugh I don’t want to feel like this anymore” and you’re about to say it which might sound like “ugh I don’t want…” and you stop yourself.
Step 2: Even if you feel a bit confused with what you are feeling internally in that moment, jump right into naming three things you are grateful for.
For example: I am grateful that I or my partner have a job, I am grateful for my children, I am grateful I can see.
I encourage you to really get into it. Fully feel that gratitude and let it fill you so that you completely shift your mindset.
Step 3: Move to the next task or topic in your day so that you are less likely to return to the initial thought you chose to hold back.
Level 3: Focus on What you Want
Follow the instructions in level two but then instead of expressing gratitude, express what you do want. Relinquish the thought and feeling completely and replace your language with what you want. For example, instead of saying “I don’t want to feel fatigued and weak anymore,” you would say “I want to feel energetic and strong!” The more you say what you do want, the better! That is what your body will hear which the cells will align with…and ultimately create.
On a final note, know that it can take some time to cultivate this practice and be patient with yourself in the process. It’s important to be consistent and give it your all. It will take a while until it’s second nature. Also be patient with the results. Remember that decades of disease and speaking a certain way might not change your physical body overnight. Give your body the patience and understanding to shift when it’s ready and let it know that you trust it. Those previous ways of speaking are hardwired in your brain so just keep practicing this new approach and you will create new neural pathways. With those new neural pathways, this will eventually become second nature.
It is also helpful to have those around you support you in mastering your language and mindset in this way so feel free to share this guide with them so they can be helpful in finding positive ways to express what you are feeling. And of course, having a professional in the field guide you and help you stay motivated is also really helpful.
Remember that this isn’t about avoiding or suppressing your feelings. It is healthy to process feelings especially with the right guidance and support. This is just a way to shift your day-to-day language in a way that will harness health rather than dis-ease. And if you think to yourself “this sounds too hard, I don’t know if I can do it,” just remember how far you’ve already come while living with symptoms. You are stronger than you know and the effort will be worth it!