The way we read, write, and talk helps to determine the way we see the world. Recently, economist Keith Chen published a paper that asked the question, are languages with less decisive future tenses more thoughtful about the future because they consider it grammatically equivalent to the present. For example, in English, we say “I will go to the play tomorrow,” which is a strong future tense. In Mandarin or Finnish, which have weaker future tenses, it might be more appropriate to say, “I go to the play tomorrow.”   Chen discovered that speakers of German, Finnish and other languages with weak future tenses were 30 percent more likely to save money, 24 percent more likely to avoid smoking, 29 percent more likely to exercise regularly, and 13 percent less likely to be obese, than speakers of languages with strong future tenses, like English.

I’ve summarized Chen’s findings as they relate to health, with some additional information to help you translate the research-speak.

“If languages affect their speakers’ intertemporal beliefs (meaning any relationship between past, present and future events or conditions) , this would also affect health behavior and long-run health. More specifically, if obligatory FTR (Future Time References which study both when and how languages require speakers to mark the timing of events) reduces the psychological importance of the future, we would predict that it would lead to more smoking, less exercise, and worse long-run health.”

So, what does all this mean? While not an excuse for poor health behavior, language clearly plays a major role in how we need to talk to ourselves about our own health.  When you set an intention for meditation or an affirmation, it is important to think about the language you are using to set that intention.  A positive mindset is one of the most powerful life strategies there is and using positive thinking techniques has long been a method for successfully achieving goals.

An article about affirmations published in Psychology Today, states that “affirmation can work as it has the ability to program your mind into believing the stated concept.”  One of the key concepts of setting an affirmation is using the present tense.  For example, if you want to affirm your feelings of worthiness, you might say “I’m remarkable and cherished.” Keeping your affirmations in the present tense ensures that your subconscious mind goes to work on them right away. Saying “I will …” or “I am going to …” is placing your desire somewhere out there, not within your reach.

If you seriously want to change your life, you must be prepared to flood your subconscious mind with all the direction you can. Part of the way to influence the direction of your mind is to mind how you talk to yourself about making change.


Andrea wants to live in a world where the neighborhoods are walkable, bike lanes are plentiful, and the food is fresh, delicious and readily available. A 20-year veteran of the health and wellness industry, she started her career in the fitness industry while earning a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion, and then on to the burgeoning field of worksite wellness. Andrea has competed in collegiate level soccer, worked as a personal trainer, fitness instructor, wellness coach, and master trainer, climbed 14ers, and completed cycling centuries and metric centuries. All of these experiences give her the opportunity to view well-being from many different perspectives. When she’s not helping others to be their healthiest self, you can find her at a farm to table restaurant, down dogging at the yoga studio, or experiencing the Colorado landscape on a bicycle, snowshoes, cross country skis or on foot.