We Are What We Hear

Words have a huge impact on your day-to-day mood with Scientists finding that humans regulate each other with our words.   According to Dr Lisa Feldman Barrett, kind words from a friend have the ability to calm us down, while negative words from someone, for example, your boss, could cause your brain to predict threat and flood your bloodstream with hormones.   Dr Feldman Barrett revealed her findings in her book Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain, where she shares the impact of words.

In one study performed by the psychology professor, she had participants lying still in a brain scanner while they listened to descriptions of situations.   The participants were physically affected by the scenarios even though they weren't experiencing them first-hand.

One situation read, "You're driving home after staying out drinking all night, the long stretch of road in front of you seems to go on forever, you close your eyes for just a moment and the car begins to skid. You jerk awake, you feel the steering wheel slip from your hands."

Upon hearing the stressful words, the scientists found increased activity in participants' brain regions that are involved in movement, despite the fact they were lying perfectly still.   Other activity was seen in the regions involved around vision, even though their eyes were closed. Further increased activity was found in the brain system that controls the heart rate, breathing, metabolism, the immune system, hormones and more – just from hearing words and processing their meaning. 

Dr Feldman Barrett explains in her book that many brain regions that process language also control things happening inside your body, such as your major organs and systems. 

This highlights how powerful words really can be.  In the same way other people's words affect us, our words affect other people and our own words, of course, also have the ability to change our mood.

If you are feeling the effect of words – perhaps you're feeling lonely, sad or overwhelmed – and need to find inner calm, listen to our new series Mood Changers, two minute visualisations to help change your mood and promote calm.

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