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Positive speech and thoughts can change our lives and our world.
When we speak, we are often unaware of the magnitude of the power of words. We do not think our words will affect others or even ourselves. However, research has shown otherwise. Not only do words have the power to affect our brains but our words also have the power to affect everything from what we think of ourselves to how we look at others. Should we use words improperly the power of words can have devastating effects on the reputation or livelihood of others.
Idle words are like powerful weapons which can reach from one end of the world to the other.
- Iggeres HaGra
Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg and communications expert Mark Robert Waldman collaborated on the book Words Can Change Your Brain. In the book, they write, “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
When we speak negative words and allow negative concepts into our minds, we increase the activity of the amygdala, which controls our brain’s fear center. We essentially cause stress-producing hormones to take over our system. These hormones and our brain’s neurotransmitters interrupt our ability to process thoughts with logic and reasoning thereby inhibiting our normal functionality. Newberg and Waldman write, “Angry words send alarm messages through the brain and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes.”
Negative thoughts and emotions have their place, but we will discuss this on another page.
Speaking the right words can literally change our reality according to Newberg and Waldman. Thinking positive thoughts stimulates frontal lobe activity, which controls language centers that connect to the motor cortex responsible for bringing you to action. The longer we concentrate on positive words, the more we affect other areas of the brain. Functions in the parietal lobe change, and this changes our self-perception and our perception of other people.
Newberg and Waldman elaborate, “A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.”
Not only do words affect the way we feel about ourselves and others, but they can also affect others. Speaking kind words often help and heal others but a careless word unintentionally spoken can leave emotional scars. The first spark of negative speech is often found in the part of the brain responsible for judgement. Throughout our day, we observe those around us and can choose to perceive their actions positively or negatively. Judging another negatively is a direct violation of the Torah commandment to judge others favorably (Leviticus 19:15).
“…the mouth is the holiest of the holy.”
Rabbi Israel Meir Kagan, known as the Chofetz Chaim, was known throughout his life for his work on the laws of speech. He explains that judging others favorably does not make us naive. But rather, it means we are thinking on a more sophisticated level. We are looking beneath the surface because many of our perceptions of others result from misunderstandings or misjudgements.
There is no doubt that speaking badly of others can cause irreversible economic damage. What we deem as a harmless remark can cause employees not to be hired, loans not to be given, and people not to do business with certain establishments. When we cause economic harm to another, we are violating the commandment “and your brother shall live with you.” (Leviticus 25:36) The Torah not only instructs us to judge others favorably, but to help others by finding them employment, doing business with them, or loaning money to them. To harm another person’s reputation is abusing our power of speech.
Positive speech and thoughts carry tremendous weight and can cause either positive or negative outcomes.Positive Speech and Thoughts to Jewish Positive Psychology