You might have heard that the pen is mightier than the sword, but did you know that words can actually change your body’s chemistry? In their book 'Words can change your brain', Newberg and Waldman explain their research into how language habits influence your body. Their findings even apply to the things you only say to yourself.

Mind your Ps and Qs

Negative words and language activate the fear centre in your brain. This increases the level of stress hormones in your body, making you feel more anxious and lowering your mood. 

Fact: Studies show you’re more likely to lose in competitive sport when you use negative words.

Positive language, on the other hand, tends to boost performance and increase feelings of optimism through feel-good hormones, which are also good for your overall health and wellbeing. 

Give it a go! Go on a negative language fast for a week and notice the difference it makes. These tips will help you get started.

Tips for verbal vitality


‘I can’t do that’ eliminates any chance of achievement, now or ever. ‘I can’t do that yet’, however, leaves open the possibility that you will be able to in the future. 

I will…

Frame your intentions clearly as firm, positive statements. For example, experiment with saying ‘I will walk for 10 minutes every morning at 9am’, instead of, ‘I don’t want to spend so much time sitting on the sofa.’ Use ‘remember’ over ‘don’t forget’.


‘Should’ is loaded with guilt, criticism and the weight of other people’s expectations, which hardly inspires joyful action. Find motivation and strength to get you going by using kinder phrases such as ‘I’d like to’, ‘I could’ or ‘I can’ instead. Or even, ‘I prefer not to.’


Does your heart sink when someone says they’ll give it a try? Try sounds like it's failed before it's even begun. It suggests that whatever you’ll be attempting will be difficult or that you’ll resent doing it. Instead, be bold. Either state your intention in a positive way or that you choose not to do it.


Being busy has become a badge of honour but it suggests a struggle that lacks control and possibly results. Instead, perhaps refer to your full diary or your productive day.

Positive self-talk is a key trait of a growth mindset. To find out more try our free online course, available online and on-demand.