The other day I had a lovely dinner with a friend at a local restaurant. In talking about a topic I’m particularly passionate about, I found myself using a certain word that would be considered profanity in just about any circle.
Now, every once in a while, I’ve been known to use it and while it’s perfect for adding emphasis, it’s not the most pleasant thing to say or hear. You never know how any of these words will land on the person hearing them and, honestly, there were a lot of other options I could have used that were just as emphatic and expressive.
Language is part of our expression, but is it also part of our health? Is what we say and how we say it an expression of our own health as well as a way to transmit health to others?
Is our language just as important to our health as our nutrition and the physical exercise we do?
In teaching yoga, language is one of the tools you have available to you to transmit information to students around the healthy sensations they can access by moving their body in particular ways. You find that certain phrases really hit home and create significant action and other things don’t create as much action. Sure, you might be enticed every once in a while to throw in a particular word to create the action you want, but the challenge is to be both creative and effective in your expression -- without being lazy and falling into the trap of what might come easy.
For those of you that have children, you might also relate to this. Kids test our language abilities as well. In trying to re-direct your child, you might use a language short-cut, that includes a tone of frustration or a particular juicy word. The challenge again is how can we communicate with our kids in a way that re-directs while teaching them clear and honest communication?
While this is not an easy task, it’s one that can build self-esteem and mutual respect between parent and child. I face this challenge when I teach childrens' yoga. It’s certainly faster to just say to a distracted child, “Stop that and come over here!” But is there a way to get that child involved without being so negative? Maybe, “I’d love to see you try this pose! Come over and show me!” We’ve got these choices to make all the time when we work and live with children.
Language is sometimes an expression of our desire to be right. The more we’re passionate about a particular subject, the more we attach ourselves to our position and the stronger our desire to convince the other person. This can happen in any coffee shop in any neighborhood, in any interaction you have with your friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Have you ever found yourself in one of these exchanges and regardless of your ability to "convince" the other person, you left the interaction exhausted? This is a true sign of how language can affect your health. Think of how the other person feels as well. I read somewhere that if we used all the energy we put towards "trying to be right" and used it for something else around our own health and wellness, we’d have a lot of excess energy available to us to put towards better use. That sounds like a pretty easy swap to have more time available to invest in things that really matter to you.
Language is also expressed through the written word, of course, and these days, the written word takes many forms. Emails, texts, blog posts, comments to articles, Facebook status updates, Twitter tweets -- we’ve increased the number of methods available to us to communicate information, but how has it affected us and those around us? When we use one of these mediums to provoke, challenge or even personally attack, how does that affect our health as well as the health of the person on the receiving end?
Living in a healthy way is a reflection of so many factors. Building a healthy family, a healthy relationship with yourself and with someone else, building a healthy community, a healthy workplace and healthy schools is a multi-faceted thing and starts with each individual person. Every action we take is either towards health or away from health. The challenge is how can we move in a direction that supports our growth as well as the growth of those around us. In doing this, we build bridges, forge connections and demonstrate mutual respect.
Over the next week, try this: Make each interaction you have with people about promoting health. Be it in the written word, the non-verbal signals you send, the conversations you have. In your own home, think about the language coming out of the TV, what you’re reading and what you’re saying to each other. In your neighborhood, think about this as you interact with your friends and neighbors.
See if you can be a vision of health!