SOULFUL Insights is a regular series featuring expert advice on matters relevant to health and wellness. Specialists, with interests that intersect with our salon topics, will share their respective insights. Our aim is to deliver cutting-edge science and wellness information to you, our reader.
The Power of Words
by Jeanne Rosner, MD
Do you Wordle? What about Quordle? Who knew there were so many five-letter words! There’s such satisfaction from completing a daily word puzzle, but there’s more at play, too. It is also about connection and communication with others. I love sharing my daily Wordle results with friends and family—and equally enjoy seeing how they fared when they share their results. It’s also cerebral and challenging. And, for some, it’s a form of meditation—a short respite of focused concentration that is apart from your daily to-do list. There’s anticipation as you type in your starter word. Will all the tiles flip green on your second try? Or, will your adrenaline start pumping as you reach the fifth or sixth attempt? My Wordle friends and I cheer each other on. We applaud when one of us solves the puzzle within the first few tries and commiserate when it takes the full six shots. If you aren’t doing Wordle yet, give it a go. Not only will you enhance your brainpower, but you’ll enjoy the connection with your community.
We use words every day, yet most of us don’t think about how truly powerful they are. I’ve been reflecting lately about how important words have become to me. Between playing Wordle and Spelling Bee and my unbounded appetite for reading, I feel I just can’t get enough words!
I’ve always been a voracious reader. I love to curl up on the couch and become entirely absorbed in a good book. And I so enjoy sharing book recommendations with others, especially historical fiction—my favorite genre. Keeping with the theme of words and their power, check out this compelling book, The Rose Code by Kate Quinn. It is set during WWII, a short distance from London, and it tells the story of the very real Allied code breakers. I felt as if I was in the trenches with the code breakers as they worked to unlock the German war codes—the words were literally jumping off the pages.
I’ve also been musing about how we can all use the power of words for good. One of my dearest friends Danielle is a master complimenter. She often stops complete strangers and enthusiastically tells them that she loves their shoes or how fabulous their hair looks. She’s been known to approach a group of women dining near her at a restaurant and tell them how beautiful their friendship appears. Imagine that. I marvel at this superpower of Danielle’s, and I try my best to emulate it. Using words to compliment has such power, and it impacts both the bearer and the recipient.
Words also have context. Sometimes when I get a text or an email, I have to spend time thinking before I respond. Words can communicate emotions and thoughts in so many different ways. When they’re expressed in writing—without the benefits of seeing any accompanying body language and facial expressions or hearing the speaker’s tone—it is so different from when we are speaking in person. We have to consider at least some of these questions: What does the writer intend? How does this relate to any prior communication? What is this person like, and what might they mean by ____? If I misinterpret or miscommunicate, then what happens? Another thing I try to do is complete any circle of communication so that we each feel seen, heard and validated. And I try to use thoughtful words.
The powerful words of others inspire me. They help me reflect on how I am in the world and/or how I want to be and grow. I may find something calming and instructive in them, as I often have in this quote from Rumi:
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Have you ever picked a word to define a focused theme for your year? You might enjoy this exercise, which serves to emphasize something that you feel is important. There are no set criteria for your word choice; you can pick an adjective, a noun, an emotion—really, whatever you see fit. Some words that I have used over the years are balance, inspire and healthy. Consider using the same word in your mindfulness practices to help keep you focused throughout the year. Periodically referring back to it can become an accountability routine: how is your word informing your year?
Words can transport us—they are incredible, inspirational and instructive. So enjoy them, play with them and use them wisely.
Jeanne Rosner, MD
Jeanne Rosner is a board-certified anesthesiologist who practiced pediatric anesthesia at Stanford Medical Center for nearly 20 years. In 2011, she began teaching nutrition classes in her son's 5th-grade science class. It was an "aha" moment for her. She realized that learning and teaching about nutrition, health and wellness in her community was her destiny.
Since retiring from anesthesia, she has been a nutrition educator at local middle and high schools throughout the Bay Area. She teaches students about the importance of eating food closest to the source, making good food choices and eating in a balanced and moderate way.
Jeanne started SOUL (seasonal, organic, unprocessed, local) Food Salon in 2014. SOUL Food Salon's mission is to educate and empower people to be healthier. She holds events (salons) at which experts in the health and wellness community share their knowledge on how to lead a healthier life.