To prove to you just how amazingly strong the power of words can be, I'd like first of all to present the following psychological test as evidence.

Devised by the psychologist John Bargh, subjects are asked to look at the following 10 groups of words and make four-word, grammatical sentences out of them (You don't have to do it but you can if you like!):

1. him was worried she always
2. from are Florida oranges temperature
3. ball the throw toss silently
4. shoes give replace old themselves
5. he observes occasionally people watches
6. be will sweat lonely they
7. sky the seamless gray is
8. should now withdraw forgetful we
9. us bingo sing play let
10. sunlight makes temperature wrinkle raisin

However, rather than being designed to test the subjects' intelligence, this test was actually devised to change their behaviour. Amazingly, having carried out this test, subjects proceeded to walk out of the office and back down the hall far more slowly than they had entered.

Why? Because hidden among the other words were the words 'worried', 'Florida', 'old', 'lonely', 'gray', 'bingo' and 'wrinkle' - all of which made the subjects not only think of being old, but actually act older.

In another experiment when the subjects were primed in a similar way but with sentence games that contained words like 'respect', 'considerate', appreciate', 'patiently', 'yield', 'polite' and 'courteous', the researchers were dumbfounded in just how amazingly polite and considerate the subjects were - not least because they were all New Yorkers!

What words are currently programming your subconscious and how can you change them?

So how exactly can we make use of this amazing power that words have to influence our minds and behaviours? Here are a few ideas for you...

Change your online password to a positive message. This idea was sent in to me by a Life is a Bag of Revels reader and blogger, Dave, who said that he had changed his password to give himself an encouraging message every time he typed it.

I was tempted to give you a list of possibilities but then thought it was probably better to leave you to come up with better ideas for yourself.

(You can visit Dave's blog at

Prime your own mind with words you want it to take on. Depending on your lifestyle, tastes and daily routine, you will probably be able to devise your own personalised way of affecting your own behaviour as the psychologists did in the examples above. Of course, you could always just use a method similar to theirs, sprinkling in words relating to whatever mood or behaviour you're trying to create. Alternatively, for example, you could try placing words on post-it notes around your home or desk, make up sentences with key words in your head on the bus... or look for pertinent words as you read.

For my own experiment today I am currently putting together a list of words to make me feel and act more lively, energised and youthful!

Be careful about what you read and watch on television. Ever noticed how a novel you're reading can affect your mood - or how a certain film or TV programme can stay with you for days?

If you're somebody who watches too much news on telly or is addicted to misery-stories in women's magazines, maybe it would be worth considering a change in your choice of entertainment? Just think what all those words could be doing to your behaviour and outlook...

Pay attention to the thoughts in your head. Of course, a lot of the negative reinforcement messages that we get are those we put into our own minds ourselves - often on a negative spiral feedback loop that keeps us stuck inside our worries or feelings of negativity.

Half of the challenge is realising just what is going on in our minds because it is often such a background noise that we are not really aware of how aggressive, anxious or other it can be. If you can train yourself to recognise how you are creating your own lines of behaviour or obsession or mood, you can then devise methods of breaking the loop by priming your mind with opposite messages.

Whenever you are feeling a bit negative or down, pay attention to what you are saying to yourself in your head and you may be surprised by what you find!

Create a permanent source of a particularly key message. If you have a key message that you'd particularly like to impress on yourself then how about making it into a work of art and framing it or creating it as a screensaver?

I am also very fond of the story from Jewish folktale of the king who wanted a 'magic' ring that would make the wearer of the ring more balanced and level-headed in their reactions to life. There are many different versions of the story and variations in interpretation (one of which, in fact, was once used by Abraham Lincoln in a speech). The upshot, however, is that the wise man commissioned with finding the king such a 'magic' ring returned with a ring engraved with the words 'This too shall pass'.

In one version of the story this is the point at which King Solomon realizes that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.

"How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!" said Abraham Lincoln.

And, forever the soother of souls, Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth says "Being detached does not mean that you cannot enjoy the good that the world has to offer. In fact, you enjoy it more. Once you see and accept the transience of all things and the inevitability of change, you can enjoy the pleasures of the world while they last without fear of loss or anxiety about the future. When you are detached, you gain a higher vantage point from which to view the events in your life instead of being trapped inside them."

(Life is a bag of Revels)