You, me, and almost everybody in the 21st century have heard of them; Affirmations. But if you have never tried them before, the idea can seem incredibly awkward.
Telling yourself how awesome you are can seem bizarre, but if that’s all you’re doing, there are probably more effective ways to go about it. And if you’re a skeptic, it doesn’t hurt to understand how and why positive affirmations became so popular.
And yes, there is genuine theory and a fair amount of neuroscience behind this practice.
Many of us have negative thoughts about ourselves, sometimes frequently. When we think like this, our confidence, mood, and outlook can become negative, too.
The problem with negative thoughts is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. We talk ourselves into believing that we are not good enough. And, as a result, these thoughts drag down our personal lives, our relationships, and our careers.
But, if we deliberately do the opposite and use positive thoughts about ourselves, the effect can be just as powerful but far more helpful.
In this article, we will explore how you can use affirmations to drive positive change in your life.
What Are Affirmations, and Do They Work?
Affirmations are positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.
You might consider affirmations to be unrealistic “wishful thinking.” But try looking at positive affirmations this way: many of us do repetitive exercises to improve our physical health, and affirmations are like exercises for our mind and outlook. These positive mental repetitions can reprogram our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think – and act – differently.
For example, evidence suggests that affirmations can help you to perform better at work. According to researchers, spending just a few minutes thinking about your best qualities before a high-pressure meeting – a performance review, for example – can calm your nerves, increase your confidence, and improve your chances of a successful outcome.
Self-affirmation may also help to mitigate the effects of stress. In one study, a short affirmation exercise boosted the problem-solving abilities of “chronically stressed” subjects to the same level as those with low stress.
What is more, affirmations have been used to successfully treat people with low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health conditions. And they have been shown to stimulate the areas in our brains that make us more likely to effect positive changes regarding our health.
A latter study suggests that a stronger sense of self-worth makes you more likely to improve your own well-being. So, for example, if you are worried that you eat too much and do not get enough exercise, using affirmations to remind yourself of your values can spur you on to change your behaviour.
Note: There is evidence that the higher your self-esteem, the more effective affirmations can be. However, research also found that if you have low self-esteem, positive affirmations actually make you feel worse, because they set up a conflict between the positive state you desire and the negative feelings you currently experience. If this applies to you, work on Boosting Your Self-Esteem before you use affirmations.
How to Use Positive Affirmations
You can use affirmations in any situation where you would like to see a positive change take place in your life. These might include times when you want to:
- Raise your confidence before presentations or important meetings.
- Control negative feelings such as frustration, anger, or impatience.
- Improve your self-esteem.
- Finish projects you have started.
- Improve your productivity.
- Overcome a bad habit.
Affirmations may be more effective when you pair them with other positive thinking and goal-setting techniques.
For instance, affirmations work particularly well alongside visualization. So, instead of just picturing the change you would like to see, you can also write it down or say it aloud using a positive affirmation.
Affirmations are also useful when setting personal goals. Once you have identified the goals you would like to achieve, affirmative statements can help you to keep yourself motivated in order to achieve them.
The power of affirmations lies in repeating them to yourself regularly. It is useful to recite your affirmations several times a day (have them pop up in your notifications!). You also need to repeat your affirmations as soon as you engage in the negative thought or behaviour that you want to overcome.
Check out our next blog and learn how to write affirmation statements and where to find great examples you can re-use! 😊