Think about this. Words are the basic building blocks of language.
We use them to build sentences and paragraphs, ideas, and to make conversation. Language allows us to structure and understand our own thoughts and feelings and to communicate intelligibly with others. The words we choose in our writing and in our everyday conversations reveal a lot about our attitudes and thought patterns.
Two people can express the same thought using different words, and those two, identical thoughts will take on wildly different connotations. Consider the following two sentences: You don’t know how to ride a bike. You can learn how to ride a bike. Both sentences convey the same information regarding whether “you” know how to ride a bike, but each sentence reveals a different attitude.
If a child asks to ride a bike, a parent can respond with either of these remarks. Each one will have a different impact on the child. The words we choose when we express ourselves reveal our attitudes but they also affect the people around us. We can use our words to keep people down or we can choose our words to lift people up.
Fostering Positive Thinking Through Language
We can make great strides toward living a more positive life by learning how to frame our thoughts and ideas in more positive terms. By using language with positive connotations and selecting words that are affirmative in nature, we can look at the world through an optimistic lens.
When we speak with others, words just come pouring out of our mouths. This is especially true when we’re engaging in casual conversations with friends and family. We’re so busy with the back-and-forth chatter that we rarely stop to think about how we can frame our remarks in a positive manner.
To cultivate positive language, we need to think before we speak and censor ourselves, edit our written communications more carefully, and commit to being more conscious (and conscientious) about the words we use.
Just like we spend time on our physical health, positivity and mental health is just as important.
Practice a More Positive Vocabulary
Below are some practices you can adopt to cultivate positive language, positive thinking, and a positive lifestyle.
Practice positive language through creative writing
You can spend five minutes a day writing about anything (you can even make stuff up). Then, go through what you’ve written and look for negative words: can’t, don’t, shouldn’t, won’t, and no.
Rewrite sentences that contain negative words and reframe them in a more positive context (like the bike sentences above).
Monitor your speech
If you catch yourself using negative words and phrases, stop yourself, even mid-sentence, and reframe your statements in positive terms. If you keep stopping in the middle of your sentences, people will eventually ask why you’re doing that. Let them know.
Explain to your family and friends you are working on developing a more positive outlook, starting with the way you speak. You’ll be surprised to discover how many people in your circle will be intrigued and may express interest in joining you.
Review what you write
Writing is actually one of the simplest places to start building this positive vocabulary because you can edit your communications before sending.
Get in the habit of taking a minute to review your emails, text messages, blog posts, and social media updates and see if you can reword negative statements and phrases to make them more positive.
Monitor the speech of others
It’s impolite to correct people or try to convert their vocabulary from negative to positive but you can certainly learn a lot by listening. As you listen, try to identify negative speech patterns and think about how negative language can cause any message to have a negative undercurrent.
Don’t try to eliminate negative words from your vocabulary
While working positive language into your thinking, speaking, and writing is healthy, avoiding or ignoring the negative can be a form of denial. For example, “Drive sober” just doesn’t have the same impact or sense of urgent importance that “Don’t drive drunk” has (and needs to have).
Think before you speak
It sounds easy but it’s actually rather difficult to put into practice. It’s perfectly acceptable to pause when it’s your turn in a conversation and give yourself a moment to organise, prepare, and present your thoughts in a positive way.
With a little practice, we can use our words to turn a negative into a positive. Learn how to choose words thoughtfully, and eventually your thoughts and behaviours will become as positive as your language.