I came home from work the other day feeling pretty crummy. I felt negative about my job, my coworkers and about other situations in my life that didn’t seem to be going very well. Depressed and down, it seemed like there was nothing going right and nothing I could do about it. I wasn’t feeling positive about the present or future.
The next day I listened to some great music on my drive to work and tried to focus on what made my job great. I focused on helping people, listened to some of my favorite songs and wrote some great blog posts and documentation. It was a good day.
I realized how many things influence our thoughts and emotions. There are many outside factors, like our environment, friends, coworkers, the weather, our neighborhood, and more. But there are also many internal factors that affect how we think and feel. These can be chemical, biological, genetic, and our own self-narrative. It’s this last point I want to focus on in this post.
As I worked on my English degree over the past few years, I wrote and read a lot. I wrote and read a lot of positive, upbeat stuff and a lot of negative, sad and even depressing stuff. Often, both the negative and positive stuff I read were even on the same topic. The difference between the positive and negative writing? Often, it came down to simple word choice. And these words, carefully chosen by the author to make us feel something specific, made all the difference in the piece of writing.
Two poems, for example, could both be about death. One, using upbeat, positive words, gave a brighter, more optimistic view on death. The other, using negative, angry or sad language, cast a darker tone on death.
And so, as I sat at work, wondering why I was so depressed one day and much more optimistic the next, I discovered something. My self-narrative was affecting the way I felt. The story I told myself and my own choice of words sabotaged me one day and uplifted me the next. Specifically, certain “power words” I used played a huge part in my emotional state. Our words are one of the keys to telling a better self-narrative.
In order to change that narrative living in our head, we need to self-edit and swap out the negative, tired or overused words with fresh, exciting, upbeat words that fill our narrative with happiness, peace, love and adventure.
Power Word Example: Commute
The first power word that I’m changing is “commute”. There are a few meanings, but I’m talking about this one:
commute (v.) – the action of mindlessly driving to/from our place of employment, often while experiencing road rage and paying no attention to our surroundings
I’ll be the first to admit that commuting isn’t very fun. It’s often long, boring, tedious, frustrating and usually I turn my brain off and drive on autopilot.
But lately I’ve been trying to change the words I use for my morning and evening drives. Here are a few I’m trying out:
I know, some of these seem strange, silly and even childish. But stick with me here. This can be a powerful change if you let it.
The word commute conjures up some of the things I’ve described above: boredom, chore, road rage, frustrating. So if we replace the word “commute” in our self-narrative, we can create a powerful change in our life story. We’ll lose the negative connotations of “commuting” and gain the positive meanings associated with one of the words I’ve listed above (or one of your own).
Let’s look at an example:
“Ugh, I hate my morning commute. It’s so long and the driver’s in [your home state here] are all idiots.”
Now replace that with this:
“I’m excited to see the sunrise on my adventure this morning.”
“I’m glad my morning travels aren’t too long. It looks like traffic is moving quickly today.”
We use these words so often that I think we don’t realize the effect they have on us. I didn’t even recognize what these negative words were or what they were doing to me until I sat down and tried to figure out why some days were great while others weren’t.
This shift in our personal story doesn’t have to be major. It doesn’t have to be silly or take a lot of effort. Just take a moment and recognize the harm that these negative words are doing. Then, find suitable replacements and insert them into your story more and more often. Notice how certain words or phrases make you feel. Toss the negative words out of your internal narrative, out of your mind. Incorporate the positive words into your life’s story. Doing this will shift your thinking so you can learn to be more positive.
Tammy Strobel (Rowdy Kittens), a blogger whom I’ve, just released an amazing interactive journal, Everyday Adventures Journal: Tiny Quests to Spark Your Creative Life, to guide you in everyday adventures. Tammy is an amazing and positive writer. If you’re looking for a simple way to add creativity and positivity to your life, this journal is a great place to start. Get it here from Amazon.
Also published on Medium.