The Power of Affirmationsby Intelligent Change
“I shouldn’t apply for this job, I’m not experienced enough.”
“I think I’ll skip this semester’s term as well, I’m still not ready to pass the exam…”
“I can’t ask my boss for a raise, they won’t give me more money anyway!”
How many times have you sabotaged yourself with negative thoughts or destructive feelings like guilt or shame? If the answer is more than once, that’s already too many times.
Doing this isn’t uncommon. Many of us struggle with recurring negative thoughts that undermine our confidence, outlook, mood, and self-esteem.
However, the problem with these is that they often become self-fulfilling prophecies.
What does that mean?
It means that what we believe about ourselves becomes our reality: our thoughts shape the way we act, and the way we act shapes our destiny. So, at some point, our negative beliefs become firmer and we begin to retreat from the valuable things in life and drag our ambitions, relationships, careers, or friendships down that hole.
But, does it have to be this way? Is it possible to reverse this process?
Well, of course! The goal of this article is to teach you about positive affirmations and help you turn those self-doubts and negative thoughts into inspiring daily affirmations.
What are Positive Affirmations?
Although there’s a broad body of scientific research about positive affirmations, there’s not an official definition of what they are.
The name says it all: they are positive statements that help you confront the negative, destructive thoughts that sometimes inhabit your mind.
We use them to motivate ourselves to make positive changes in our lives or to enhance our confidence and self-esteem. If you often struggle with negative thoughts, perhaps daily affirmations are the best way to replace these destructive patterns with more adaptive ones!
The Science Behind the Positive Affirmations
Just like many other positive psychology concepts, this one too is based on science.
The Self-Affirmation Theory
One of the best-established theories about positive affirmations is the self-affirmation theory by Claude Steele. It dates all the way back to the 1980s.
According to this theory, the process of self-affirmation is activated by threatening information: those that confront our adequacy or integrity. The purpose of self-affirmations is restoring the perception of ourselves as adequate, moral, competent, good, coherent, stable, capable of free choice, or controlling important outcomes, and so on.
All this is achieved through explanation, rationalization, and action.
Basically, positive affirmations are more about coping with the threat to our self-image, than coping with the threat itself.
Self-affirmations are more than just coping with threats. They help us build a positive narrative of our self-identity. This is a flexible concept of ourselves taking various roles in life: sons, daughters, parents, students, workers, friends, neighbors, etc. From each of these roles, we define success in a different manner.
What Affirmations Are All About
In a 2014 review of research on positive affirmations, the authors came up with a couple of important conclusions:
- Self-affirmations help us cope with events that threaten our integrity, performance, and personal growth;
- They are most often all about rethinking our core personal values;
- Timely affirmations can help improve education, health, relationship outcomes;
- The benefits can persist for months or even years;
- Lasting benefits can be reached once they touch off a cycle of adaptive potential and positive loop of feedback between the self and the social system.
But, if this is not convincing enough, we can get even more “sciency”.
In 2016, a group of researchers wanted to reveal whether there is an underlying neural mechanism associated with self-affirmations.
The participants in the study were divided into two randomized groups and handed a task. After completing it, one group received affirmation, while the other didn’t. During the experiment, their brain functions were monitored through an fMRI machine.
The results confirmed that there are several neural pathways whose activation increases whenever we receive affirmations. These brain regions are also responsible for processing self-related information and values, confirming that affirmations are all about firming our positive identities.
The Benefits of Daily Affirmations
Now that you know that positive affirmations and their effects are real, perhaps we should sum-up some of their major benefits.
Self-affirmations help us alleviate stress and defensiveness by broadening our self-perspective;
They make us less psychologically vulnerable;
They help us maintain optimism in difficult life situations (lay-off from work, for example);
They make us physically healthier: practicing self-affirmations has shown positive results in coping with obesity, but it also promotes other health-related behaviors such as accepting a healthy diet;
Self-affirmations can work as a mitigating factor for academic success at college for students who are feeling left out;
- They help us maintain a positive identity, good mood, and relationships with others.
How to Practice Daily Affirmations and Positivity
According to some researchers, a short self-affirmation session before a stressful or pressuring event can help calm our nerves, increase our confidence, and the odds of having a successful performance.
What should these sessions look like?
For example, you can practice visualization. That means you need to create mental images of yourself: who you are and who you would like to be. Visualization goes beyond words—you need to try to imagine images or concrete situations.
In this case, you should imagine all the things you’d like to improve upon yourself. Is it the way you look, the way you behave at work, how you handle conflicts in your relationship, or something else?
Then, you need to picture the change you’d like to see.
You can also take visualization to the next level: writing. If you write down your ideas in an affirmative form, it’s much more likely that you’ll remember them. And if you don’t, you can always return to this written material and measure your progress.
Further, you can try standing in front of the mirror, looking yourself in the eyes, and saying these positive things out loud.
However, keep in mind that saying or writing things down is only one part of the process.
Some experts on affirmations like Louise Hay rather support daily affirmations and the power of living an affirmative life.
Louise Hay was one of the most famous American motivational writers, whose books empowered and helped millions of people across the globe. She dedicated her life to helping others achieve a positive mindset trough practicing self-affirmations, and her inner and outer beauty, as well as the long life she lived (she died at the age of 90), were proof that self-affirmative thinking and behavior do represent a path to longevity, as well as mental and physical health.
According to Louise Hay, many people don’t succeed in making positive changes through affirmations, because they don’t use them correctly. That’s why people often think that positive affirmations are silly, and don’t work. But, what does this ineffective process look like?
For example, they can say out loud: “I am strong and brave, and can not be destroyed.” And then think: “Well, that sounds silly and it won’t work.”
What do you think will prevail? The positive or the negative affirmation? You know the answer already: the latter of course!
There are two main reasons:
The negativity bias: when given a positive and a negative thing of equal intensity, the negative one will always prevail, as it has a greater effect on our psychological and emotional state.
- Adaptation: due to socialization, culture, and the negativity bias itself, a negative outlook on life often comes far more naturally to us than the positive one.
Louise Hay claims that too many people start practicing affirmations this way only to find out that a couple of months later, they’re still miserable. That happens because after saying an affirmative sentence, they keep complaining for the rest of the day, meaning that nothing significant has changed in their attitude.
In Louise Hay’s words: Affirmations are like seeds planted in soil. Poor soil, poor growth. Rich soil, abundant growth.
If you want to become a more positive person, you need to change your overall perspective on life. It’s not enough to just generically repeat positive statements, you need to instill new habits, values, and behaviors.
That’s why we recommend you start keeping a gratitude journal.
On Gratitude Journaling
A gratitude journal is the perfect combination of all the most important aspects of instilling positivity in your life:
Daily affirmations (not weekly, monthly, or when in need);
- Positivity only—no space for complaints, rumination of depressive thoughts, etc; Focus on instilling an attitude of gratitude—not just occasional positive habits.
A gratitude journal is a way to keep yourself accountable in developing appreciation of yourself and your life. When you feel grateful in life, your mindset automatically shifts to a state of greater positivity.
With that in mind, we’ve created The Five Minute Journal.
The Five Minute Journal comes in two forms:
- A physical notebook;
- A mobile app.
Depending on your preferences, you can profit from using both of these because they’re geared towards the same purpose: bringing more positivity into your life.
The hard copy Five Minute Journal facilitates a daily practice of gratitude. You are supposed to write 3 things you’re grateful for in the morning and 3 great things that happened to you during the day in the evening. You can also answer some of the positive-psychology-inspired questions to help you focus your attention on the good things in your life.
The notebook itself is very elegant, and it’s not big, so you can always carry it with you if you want. If not, just keep it in a visible place in your bedroom, and remember to fill it out every morning and evening.
The name says it all—it takes only five minutes, but the benefits of starting and finishing your day with a positive mindset are immeasurable.
On the other hand, The Five Minute Journal app is the same thing, just digital. It’s available for both Android and iOS, so whichever phone you use, you’ll always have your journal in your pocket. However, there are some additional benefits that come with the app, such as setting up reminders, adding photos, or scrolling over your gratitude timeline. And of course—saving the trees!
Now, we assume you’d like to learn how to formulate affirmative statements, and how they should sound like. Don’t worry, that’s where we’re headed next!
How to Create Affirmative Statements
There are no specific rules on how to create your daily affirmations, except to be specific, positive, and creative.
However, there are some guidelines that you might find useful.
- Think about the things you don’t like about yourself, the things that you’d like to work on. Write them down.
- Make sure that your plans are realistic and achievable. If it’s not possible to believe in them—it won't be possible to achieve them. If you struggle with overwhelming negative thoughts about yourself, write them all down. Then, replace them with corresponding positive ones. Whenever one of these negative thoughts pops into your mind, “fight it off” with its positive replacement! Always use present tense: don’t write your affirmations in forms of wishes, or in future tense. They are already present in your life: “I am strong”, “I can overcome all challenges”, “I am unbreakable”, etc.
- If you want your positive affirmations to really work, you need to say them with feeling. If you don’t care about them, they won’t work. If you believe in them, and they touch you deeply, there’s a lot more chance for them to work!
Positive Daily Affirmations Examples
So, all affirmations should be personal and apply to you, your life, and what you’re trying to achieve.
However, if it’s hard for you to find inspiration for change, here are some examples that should be helpful.
- I help my friends and family grow and have no jealousy when they succeed and I don’t.
- I am talented and hard working.
- I am a good friend.
- I am an honest person.
- I’m a dedicated and supportive partner.
- I am happy and generous.
- I bring positive energy to my workplace.
- I can complete this task!
- I successfully provide the food on my table.
- I care about my health and I’m going to work out three times a week.
- I am beautiful on the inside and the outside.
- My colleagues respect me.
- I enjoy my job.
- I enjoy my workout sessions.
- I bring happiness to other people by being who I am
- I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
- I love who I am and who I’m about to become.
- My contributions to this world make it a better place.
- I accept my body the way it is.
- I always do my best.
- I am unique.
- I am capable of learning a lot.
- I am an important and valuable person.
- I always help others.
- I am brave and responsible.
- I am safe and calm. Everything in my world is just the way it should be.
- I am consistent with what I say and do.
- I trust myself.
- I’ve come this far in life and I’m proud of myself.
- I believe in myself and will always keep going.
- I am resilient.
- I can handle all of my problems at work with my expertise.
- Every person, place, and thing on this planet is interconnected with love. I am at home in the universe.
- I am patient, tolerant, and diplomatic.
- I am worth loving. There is love all around me.
- I am pain-free, and totally in sync with life.
- I forgive myself and set myself free.
- Life supports me in every possible way.
- I experience love wherever I go. Loving people fills my life, and I find myself easily expressing love to others.
- I choose to feel good about myself each day. Every morning I remind myself that I can make the choice to feel good. This is a new habit for me to cultivate.
- I deserve the best and I accept it now. All my needs and desires are met before I even ask.
- I now free myself from destructive fears and doubts.
- I speak with loving words.
- All that I seek is already within me.
- I am an open channel for creative ideas.
- As I forgive myself, it’s easier to forgive others.
Wrapping It Up
In this article, we’ve learned several new things:
- What positive affirmations are;
- How they can benefit our physical and mental health, and gear us towards greater positivity in life;
- How to practice affirmations and positive mindset;
- What affirmative statements sound like.
However, daily affirmations are not the only way to make positive changes in your life. What you can also do is practice a growth mindset, or make significant changes regarding your productivity.
But let’s see what are the key takeaways from this article:
- Daily affirmations > occasional affirmations.
- Daily affirmations shouldn’t be followed by complaints and negative thoughts.
- You can practice positive affirmations through visualization, writing, or keeping a gratitude journal.
- You can combine daily affirmations with other positivity practices, such as achieving a growth mindset.
- You are a great person, capable of love and worth loving! Have a great day!
Shift your mind to state of optimism, become happier, gain self-confidence, and practice positive affirmations with the Five Minute Journal.