Positive Words Associated With Mental Health (Socially Constructing Meaning)

Words Have Meaning

Buzzwords get thrown around all the time, but that's especially true in our modern era. "Social distancing." "Fake news." "Boomer." These are all words that have appeared recently.

But what do those words actually mean? If I asked 10 people on the street, I'd probably get 10 different definitions. And that's the problem.

We, as humans, give words meaning. Words are socially constructed, and they are always going to be a step away from the truth. So all we can do is try to come together to find some kind of socially agreed upon meaning. This isn't easy when there are businesses that profit off peddling different versions of meaning.

So let's focus on mental health to narrow our focus.

The Social Distancing Example

"Social distancing" somehow became the term that we all use. But is it the best term? Should we have assembled a buzzword committee to decide on the best one?

I heard a professor on the radio recently. He was talking about how "social distancing" is actually not a very good term for describing what we are trying to get people to do. It doesn't get to the heart of it. Instead, he said, we need "social solidarity" and physical distancing. Social support is so important for mental health, so we must do what we can to maintain that while also keeping people safe during a pandemic.

It made my ears perk up and my brain start whizzing.

You know what? I thought. He's right!

The term social distancing is one that I simply took for granted. I accepted it as the complete truth when, in fact, there are always other words that can be used to describe something.

I started to ask myself, "Why didn't I question that before?"

It's because buzzwords are powerful. They are sticky. They sound good. It's easier to latch onto a buzzword than it is to spend the time to analyze it. Analyzing everything we hear and read would be absolutely exhausting.

Words and Mental Health

So what does this all mean for your mental health? Should you question every single word you hear? Should you pursue a degree in linguistics?

No.

But you should be more mindful of the words you hear and use when it comes to mental health.

"She's bipolar" has a different meaning than "She has bipolar."

"Coronavirus anxiety" is evolving into more nuanced word choices.

We're humans, and words are primarily how we get our points across. But words are imperfect. Verbal and written communication are imperfect processes.

Keep that in mind going forward.

We're all being forced to be more introspective these days.

Maybe you could consider the words you use and whether or not they mean what you want them to mean.

I think it's worth a shot.