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Dementia & The Magic of Words

“What I Speak is What I Create”

“Abracadabra” is a very old word and there is some debate about where it came from. A widely accepted view is it is from the ancient Aramaic language and means “What I speak is what I create”. I’ll let the debate go on without me as I think this is wonderful ancient wisdom that rings true to the present day.

Your words and your body language can have a huge affect on others.

When you are positive others around you pick up on it and unfortunately the same is true for the opposite. It is also important to notice that this can also influence your own behaviour. Have you heard the saying ‘If you think you can’t do something, you’re probably right.’

Our environment, our perspective and opinions, and those around us shape our world. But we have to remember how we experience the world is just our brain’s interpretation affected largely by our past experiences and current emotions. And this is hugely influenced by the words we see and hear, including what we say to ourselves. What I speak is what I create.

For a person living with a brain injury or dementia it may be difficult to stay positive.

Many people diagnosed with dementia also live with depression. A positive atmosphere is very important but sometimes this can be difficult to achieve. Their condition not only affects the individual but also everyone around them.

If what we speak is what we create then we need to become more aware of what we say, we read and we listen to. Are these words creative or limiting, to yourself or to others? Sometimes it’s not very apparent that our words are limiting. It can be as subtle as not including words that inspire and uplift.

An experiment that has been conducted many times around the world is described as follows:

Two groups of people are set the same test. One group is given a range of questions in which the descriptions contain words relating to old age. The second group is given exactly the same questions but rewritten without the old age words. At the end of the test the groups are timed as they leave. The group with the old age terms walk much slower than the other group.

I haven’t seen this test. Maybe there are other factors, but I do know I associate certain images and sensations with particular words. 

How do the following lines of words make you feel?

  1. Dull – Depressed – Sadness – Scream – Hate – Frown
  2. Bright – Enthusiastic – Joy – Giggle – Love – Smile

How about these examples?

  1. “Just wait here and I’ll get your medication, then I’ll take you to the toilet and later you can sit in the lounge.”
  2. “We’re going to have a lovely day today, it’s nice and cosy in the lounge, we can look out the window and watch the beautiful colourful leaves swirl around the garden in the wind.”

Words can have incredible power, but it is easy in the busyness of the day just to focus on what we are doing. Someone feeling overwhelmed can pass on their negative energy without even realising it. But energising words can give you energy and this in turn can be shared.

This is particularly important for those in the role of carer. Caregivers need that energy.

We can limit ourselves when we focus on our problems. And this doesn’t necessarily mean in a self-pitying way, it’s just our problems are right in front of our noses. Rather than focusing on what is wrong we need to acknowledge and promote what is right. Talking about what is right can lead to discovering more positives and shifts focus from the things that aren’t going so well.

Unsurprisingly people don’t respond well to the word “don’t” at any age. Using positive affirmations can be a way of turning complaints and worries into something less negative. Sometimes just telling someone they are helpful and cooperative can have a magical effect. Abracadabra!

It can be challenging, but by choosing to assume that everyone is always doing the best they can at the present moment helps make it a little easier.

Smiles are contagious. Even reading or hearing the word smile can bring on a smile. Sometimes it is a matter of fake it till you make it.

Here are a few ideas on how you can introduce positive words to your day. You can do these things alone or with others who need uplifting. If someone can’t participate they will still gain something from hearing these positive words. Creating discussions around these activities when possible is really beneficial.

  • Make a long list of positive or happy words. This could be random or by letter. Eg. A is for achieve….
  • Write out a positive quote and write all the words you can think of from the letters in it. Eg. A group of fabulous and fun people.
  • Write the word smile and stick notes up where you will see them during your day. This could also be a painting or colouring activity.
  • Write a funny quote and place it where you will see it often.
  • Write a list of things to be grateful for.
  • Write down good things you can do and enjoy in the coming week.

By using positive words to yourself and to others you can harness their power.

Words can be magical. If you are struggling in your day, try: Abracadabra!

Check out Mindjig’s listing here on Eldernet

About Julie Bourla

Julie Bourla
Julie Bourla is a co-owner of the online store, Mindjig.co.nz. Mindjig offers gifts and activities for people living with dementia or brain injury. Her husband, Jonathan, is an activities coordinator in a secure dementia unit. Together they have been developing engaging solutions geared particuarly towards New Zealanders, to help people living with cognitive challenges and also their carers/families. With Julie’s background in graphic design & illustration and Jonathan’s in photography, they use their skills to make meaningful products with many of the activities on the site being designed and produced themselves.

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