Language and Mental Health

Have you ever thought about the influence of words on your health? The words we say to ourselves, repeat within our minds, and speak to others have an effect on our minds and bodies. Language has a profound impact on our mental and even physical health. Whether we are conscious of it or not, much of our power lies in our communication, starting with ourselves.

Language is an important but also challenging topic to discuss in neuroscience. The study of language was initially approached as a separate organ or element to study within the brain, but now there is much modern work demonstrating that language is actually integrated and part of a range of neural processes that play an influential role in our state of mind. (Kuhl, 2011).

Language can affect our nervous system and mental state by affecting our physiology. When we have a thought, neurons fire and begin to form chemical and physical pathways that are either weakened or strengthened, depending how often they are co-activated. The saying “neurons that fire together, wire together” can explain how the words we say to ourselves and the thoughts we constantly have, become neural pathways in our brains that in turn become beliefs and can affect our habits and/or outlook on life.

The words we think or speak produce a response and make connections between ideas and memories, sometimes without us even realizing it. It’s important to emphasize the impact positive words can have on our mental health, because those thoughts become beliefs and in turn impact our self-esteem and attitude towards life. Negative words can induce negative emotions and in turn influence us to engage in toxic or destructive behavior. Positive words can invoke feelings of confidence, hope, and empathy. When used inconsiderately, words can create judgement, barriers, labels, and misconceptions that can promote separation or isolation.

Presented, in the table, below is an overview of Toxic vs. Nontoxic words by Pathwaves, Inc. The “Toxic Words” are triggered from and trigger survival instincts which include the instinct to define and control. The “Anti-Toxic Words” embody love, choice, nurturing and freedom.

Toxic versus Anti-toxic Words

In the table above is an overview of toxic versus anti-toxic words used by Pathwaves. The “toxic words” are triggered from and trigger survival instincts, which include the instinct to define and control. The “anti-toxic words” embody love, choice, nurturing and freedom.

Toxic Words

  • HAVE/NEED to
  • SHOULD  – expect
  • BUT (yeah but, no but) – “No, no”
  • Can’t/Don’t/Not/Impossible (also to agree)
  • Fail
  • Not good enough/or better than/worthless
  • Wish or hope to – converse to acceptance
  • I told you so
  • Why – as a victim – “Why did I do…”
  • Judgement words – wrong/bad/guilty
  • I know
  • Labels – especially shaming ones
  • Extreme words – always/never
  • I won’t be happy until – “that” will make me happy, I will be happy “if”…

Anti-Toxic Words

  • I GET TO – want or like to
  • COULD – it seems like a good idea
  • YES and/0r – I have another perspective
  • YES and/0r – I have another perspective
  • I learned from this
  • Worthy
  • It is what it is – plan to, co-create
  • Love, compassion, empathy
  • Gratitude and thanks, forgiveness
  • Loving/Accepting words
  • I hear you – thanks for your perspective
  • It has changed, or I am changing
  • Can – Do – Change
  • Be happy now

Mental Health Awareness Month

The words we start telling ourselves from the moment we wake up, to the time we go to sleep, play a significant role in our day to day lives and overall mental and physical health.

In honor and celebration of Mental Health Awareness Month, we challenge you to begin your day with positive and neural-empowered words such as “I want to enjoy today” or “I don’t have to take any action to be worthy of being okay,” and see how your day responds. The mind is linked to the body and the thoughts we repeat to ourselves will affect our nervous system. Why not choose words that promote feelings of empathy, love, and connection?

Begin to speak and see love in action — starting with ourselves, the human we are most connected to within our own mind and body.


If you’d like to learn how you can support your personal growth through our methodology, we are here to help. Schedule a free 30-minute consultation today.

To help those who cannot afford the services of Pathwaves, consider donating to the Pathwaves Foundation. Please call (305) 858-6616 for more information.



  1. Kuhl, P. K. (2011). Early Language Learning and Literacy: Neuroscience Implications for Education. Mind, Brain, and Education, 5(3), 128–142.
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