Do you use positive words to describe yourself?
In other words, when you think about yourself do you use constructive non-judgmental sentences that edify you or do you use words that judge and discredit your abilities?
With most of my clients sadly it is the latter.
Let’s just think about the language that surrounds working out: no pain, no gain, feel the burn, double down, boot camp.
No wonder so many people hate to exercise or are intimidated by working out! There is not one positive word in that sentence!
Here’s the thing, language matters! Language matters a lot! We need to cultivate positive words!Just by changing the language you use to speak to yourself can change the quality of how you move and how you feel.
Just for fun try this short game or exercise I learned from my colleague Nancy Romita.
You can do this by yourself, but it works even better with a partner. One of you is partner A, and the other is partner B. Both of you are standing up. Partner A put your arms around partner B, and try to move or lift him or her. Notice that you are able to move partner B.
Next, partner A, recite this script to partner B:
“Imagine there is a giant hole at the top of your head, and into this hole is poured wet, gray cement. This wet, gray cement is filling up your skull, traveling down through your neck and into your lungs and chest. This wet, gray, heavy cement is filling up your abdomen and pelvis. Heavy, wet cement is pouring through your thighs, knees, and lower leg. This heavy, gray cement is moving into the ankles and feet. Heavy, gray cement is surrounding the foot.”
Partner A then tries to move or pick up partner B. Partner A cannot move partner B. Partner B is so heavy that he or she actually feels as if he or she were full of cement.
We don’t want to leave partner B in the quagmire of cement, so let’s lighten him or her up. Partner A, recite this script:
“You are standing in a pool of water, and the water is fresh and clean and sparkly. Allow the sparkly water to fill your feet and move through your ankles. This bright, sparkly water is swelling through your lower leg and up into your thighs. Allow this fresh water to fill up your abdomen and move into your lungs and chest. This bright, sparkly water is swelling up into your throat and your skull and is bubbling out through the crown of your head.” Now, partner A, try to lift partner B! Ta-da! It is so easy to move partner A.
Do you see the power of language and how your words and thus your thoughts affect your physicality? Do you see how the positive words like bright and sparkly lightened you up?
There is scientific evidence that this is true. Neuroscientist and Alexander Technique teacher Rajal Cohen did a study using the phrase lighten up to see how it would affect posture, movement, and balance. Rajal runs the Mind in Movement Laboratory at the University of Idaho, where her work is “inspired by the idea that cognitive factors are important for controlling action.” In this study, her subjects were people with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is known for causing, among other things, rigid muscles, unsteady stance, and poor control of movement. Dr. Cohen found that when she asked these people to think about “lightening up,” (rather than “pulling up” or “relaxing”) their torsos became less rigid, their stance became steadier, and they were able to initiate movement more smoothly, indicating better control (Cohen 2015).
The cement game we just played demonstrates the importance of choosing language that benefits you. What old tapes are going through your head? What words do you use that just pull you down and compress you? Language is so important. Expressions like try harder; double down; no pain, no gain; and pull yourself up by the bootstraps are not constructive or helpful. We need language that is kinder and gentler. We need positive words to encourage and build us up.
This game illustrates how simple it can be. So choose lighten up or allow, free up or let go. Your psycho-physical self will thank you!
Here is a link to a group of my students doing the Cement Game.
My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves. You can get my Amazon best-selling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.