Sticks and Stones

Sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt me… actually they can and they will, how you speak to yourself matters!

Studies have shown that positive and negative words affect us on a deep psychological and neurological level and have an enormous impact on our lives. In one experiment(1), brain responses to negative words were monitored. The results showed that negative words released stress and anxiety inducing hormones!!! Of course, there’s a knock on health effect of these hormones, especially when exposure is chronic, for example, how we talk to ourselves on a daily, hourly, and minute by minute basis.

Dr Masimo Emoto studied what happened to water molecules when exposed to human words, intensions, and emotions(2). What she found was astonishing:

It’s hard to argue that words don’t have power after reading that!!! So, as it turns out, it’s not just sticks and stones that hurt us!

Why is it easier to be negative than positive?

Since pre-historic times we are constantly looking for threat or danger, and our brains are hardwired to look out for the bad. This is not a bad thing, it is a very helpful survival mechanism. However, in the modern world these mechanisms can be triggered constantly, leading to overwhelm and mental health problems. Negative thoughts involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly, leaving us with a tendency to remember or focus more readily on the bad.

Psychologists refer to it as ‘Negativity Bias’ = attend to, learn from, and use negative information in preference to positive information. Again, this is not a flaw in you, but a basic habit of survival.

How does this affect your relationship with your body image?

Well, it helps explain why I often hear crickets when asking a client to tell me what they like about their bodies. Oftentimes, they have never thought a positive thing in regards to themselves. It also explains why there’s usually a list of things they don’t like about their bodies!

There’s also a phenomena called the ‘Truth Effect’, which is basically believing false information to be true after repeated exposure. If you are constantly using negative words in reference to yourself and your body, over
time those words are what you believe as “true”. This, as you can appreciate, can significantly affect how you feel about your body.

What can you do about it?

Here are a few tips on how to increase positivity in your life and help change the language you use to improve your life…
1. Use positive affirmations. Exposure Exposure Exposure!!
2. Give others compliments and accept compliments from others.
3. Don’t compare yourself to others. Comparison often leads to low self-esteem and unhappiness.
4. When a negative thought pops into your head, actively try and reverse it or neutralise it.
5. Surround yourself with as much positivity as possible, i.e., social media accounts and people.
6. Practise gratitude, keep a journal close by that you can write them in. Writing them can help anchor them making them more powerful.
7. Set achievable bite size goals to start (whether it be fitness/nutrition/work/family) and allow yourself to be proud when you achieve them.

Our spoken words and internal dialogue have tremendous power and will suck or contribute energy to our everyday lives. They can lift or deflate our mood in an instant, change our posture, cause unhappiness and stress, affect those around us, disrupt or balance our hormones, evoke an emotion or memory or a picture in our head…. the list goes on.

We’ll always be exposed to negative language, but we have ability to control it (to an extent). Take steps to create more positivity in your life and you’ll definitely feel the benefits! These habits are far more likely to help you achieve a sense of self worth, life satisfaction, and happiness than achieving a certain weight or dress size. STOP beating yourself up and take the new year as an opportunity to do life differently.

x Charlie

Charlie is a Body Therapy Counsellor and Personal Trainer. You can book a complimentary session with Charlie here:

If you’re a trainer, and would like the same skills that Charlie uses to get the best from her clients, our How to Help Your Client’s Succeed Course Series may be for you!

1 Maria Richter, Judith Eck, Thomas Straube, Wolfgang H.R. Miltner, Thomas Weiss, Do words hurt? Brain activation during the processing of pain-related words, PAIN, Volume 148, Issue 2, 2010, Pages 198-205, ISSN 0304-3959,


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  1. […] 14th January 2023: Full Article – Sticks and Stones. How your words and thoughts have physical power. […]

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