I have a very old book on my book shelf entitled, Your Body Believes Every Word You Say, by Barabara Levine. This book is crumpled and dog eared and has a few stains on it. I bought it back in the 90's when I was still in the Army. I still have it because it was the first time I had been introduced to the concept of how language links the mind and the body. Levine's struggle with a huge brain tumor led her to investigate how we speak impacts our health. She was a pioneer in this area. Since then, countless research and scholars have chimed in, and, as a society we are much more aware of how our words impact our health.
Over the years, I have added a couple of key phrases to the list that Levine started for me many years ago. There are two particular phrases that help specifically with confidence in creating a life filled with physical, mental and emotional health.
1) "I should (fill in the blank)." As in, I should start running, or go on a diet, or call my mother-in-law." Should is a verb and, is "used to indicate an obligation, duty or correctness." The thing about "should'ing" on yourself or someone else, especially in the area of wellness, is that there is a subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) implication that you "should be better." We somehow believe that if we "should" on ourselves, that we will be spurred on to action. Actually, the opposite is true. When we say we should be doing this, or should be doing that, we are actually reinforcing the belief that, left to our own devices, we cannot be trusted to follow through. And, when we are busy following a list of "shoulds", perhaps we aren't really asking the much more important question which is, "What do I want?" Replacing the word should with could brings the event back into your control and consciously reminds us that we are the ones doing the choosing every moment. This is a powerful thing to remind ourselves of daily.
2) "I don't know." Now, admittedly, this is a tough one for me. "I don't know" is a great phrase to use when I don't want to commit or make a decision or have to think too hard. I've noticed that saying "I don't know" feels kind of safe and comfortable. I started to look at this phrase a little more closely, when I kept hearing it from clients when asking clients questions like, "What do you want to weight?" or "What does the healthiest version of you look like?" or even, "How do you want to feel?" Sometimes people truly don't know the answer yet because they have never thought about it. But, after a certain amount of time, "I don't know" doesn't really serve any of us.
Start to notice when you say, "I don't know." Do you really not know? Are you willing to use that magnificent brain of yours to figure it out? Follow up with this wonderful question, "If I did know, what would the answer be?" Or, "If I was the person that I want to be in this world, what would I say?"
Be willing to take responsibility for your choices by using "could" instead of "should." And be willing to decide what you do know and courageously share it with your world.