Could swearing be good for us?

In this episode, we will unpack: Could swearing be good for us?

With all discussions, we need to apply wisdom and create a space to look at topics from more than one angle. Disclaimer this episode is not encouraging you to unleash F-bombs willy-nilly and use swearing as verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

How do you feel about swearing? Have you ever had a swear jar? What were the family rules around swearing? Have you ever been offered the expression, “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap”?

A recent survey in the UK found that swearing can be a great tool for pain relief. Say what!

With over 2,000 people interviewed on their swearing habits, 64% of respondents who repeatedly swore reported that swearing was an effective antidote to their physical and emotional pain. This view is also backed up by neuroscience.

“The science shows that when people swear, it can activate the part of our brain, which triggers the flight-or-fight response. This then leads to a surge in adrenaline, a natural form of pain relief,” said neuroscientist Dr Rachel Taylor.

Research undertaken at Keele University has found that individuals who swear are able to hold their naked arms in buckets of ice-cold water for a greater amount of time than those who don’t.

However, there is a catch if one swears constantly; the Research suggests one won’t get the same effect. Swearing too much can lose its effectiveness and is most impactful when used less often.

The highest levels of everyday swearing, with the maximum being 60 swear words per day, did not show any benefit in withstanding the ice water in the swearing condition of the experiment compared with the neutral word.

Swearing can be a means of emotional expression. When used appropriately, swearing may help one deal with anxiety and depression and even anger-management challenges more effectively. Swearing can help us release toxic stress, like having a good cry.

Dr Caroline Leaf explains, “Studies suggest that people in stressful situations handle them better and suffer less from toxic stress if you tell them they can swear, while people who are told not to swear tend perform worse when faced with a challenging situation”.

She also explains, “Research done in aeroplane cockpits and operating rooms has shown that pilots and surgeons who are allowed to swear are better able to deal with and recover from stressful events compared to pilots and surgeons who aren’t allowed to curse. Why?

Swearing seems to get emotions out of your body instead of them being absorbed by your body and brain, which can cause mental and physical damage. It also seems to be a way to unclutter thinking and problem-solve”.

On a finishing note, swearing works best when used in the right place and with people who are already comfortable with swearing. It’s best to aware of who is around, as some consider it vulgar and offensive.

During our time together, we have unpacked; could swearing be good for us? We looked at a handful of research findings on the topic and how swearing can be an antidote to relieving pain, be a means of expression and can help release toxic stress.

So that’s it for today’s episode, and as always, I am grateful for the opportunity to come alongside you. If you know someone who might benefit from hearing this episode, why not share it with them?

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I look forward to coming alongside you again on the first Wednesday of the month.