Did you know that just saying certain words more often throughout the day can actually have an effect on your mood? And we have all heard how much of an impact a positive or negative mood can have on our health, in terms of stress or depressed mood and willingness to partake in health-boosting activities.
Sometimes when I talk to people, I can instantly tell their mood. And although body language plays a role, I can even pick up on a person’s mood when I’m talking to them over the phone or they are seated across from me at the table. To me, the words people use and the expression on their face makes it apparent whether they’re feeling upbeat or depressed.
A study I came across the other day draws an even stronger connection between what people say and how they feel. It suggested that new research has shown a direct connection between emotion and language, and for the first time ever, it becomes apparent that certain sounds can signify emotion and vice versa.
Let me explain in a little more detail.
Through two experiments, a research team concluded that when people articulated words with the long “o” sound, like in “alone,” they were in a more negative mood than people who articulated words with the long “i” sound, as in “like.” These two vowels, the researchers found, were closely associated and charged with conflicting emotion.
The first experiment asked subjects to watch a series of cartoons, then come up with 10 artificial words and speak them out loud. The subjects who were more amused by the cartoons used more words with an “i” and were in a more positive mood. On the other hand, people who weren’t impressed by the cartoons used more “o” words.
Another experiment was done to assess if the emotional quality of the vowels can be traced back to facial movements. The study subjects were asked to articulate “i” sounds, which contracts the zygomaticus major muscle (used in laughing and smiling) and the “o” sound, which activates the orbicularis oris muscle (used to frown). Again, they noticed that the people who were more amused by cartoons used more “i” sounds than people who found them less amusing, who used more “o” sounds.
The facial movements and sounds people produce appear to be very closely related to mood and vice versa.
So can improving your mood be as easy as changing your vocabulary? Maybe. By focusing on saying words that allow you to crack a smile and activate your smiling muscles, you may be able to improve your mood. Perhaps try saying words with long “i” sounds out loud while you’re at home for a few minutes a day. You can also try watching or doing things that make you happy and allow those muscles to work their magic!
Think of the words that often reinforce negativity, those that feature long “o” sounds. Words like “alone,” “don’t,” “won’t,” and “no” all fall into that category. On the other hand, “like,” “alive,” “thrive,” and “smile” are all positive words.
Words communicate more than just sounds and ideas. They also indicate and affect mood. Try to choose your words carefully and practice saying words that reinforce positive feelings each day to improve your mood (and thus your health)!
Source for Today’s Article:
Rummer, R., et al., “Mood is linked to vowel type: The role of articulatory movements,” Emotion 2014; 14(2): 246, doi: 10.1037/a0035752.