How to benefit from positive affirmations
Written by Kristy Iervasi
Take charge of your day by taking control of your mind! It’s easy for us to automatically think about the negative aspects of events that happen in our life. This negative attitude can affect our life and our health. Negativity can manifest into chronic stress, which can create hormonal imbalances, reduce immunity and may deplete the brain of specific chemicals which are associated with feelings of happiness. Thinking in this way can also affect how we see ourselves which can result in low confidence, self-esteem, self-efficacy and mood.
These constant negative thoughts can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies, which can affect our daily lives including our work, physical health and relationships.
So what can be done to rewire our brains so we see life in a more positive light?
What Are Positive Affirmations?
Positive affirmations are positive statements used to change negative thoughts and thinking. These positive statements can be simple and easy to motivate yourself, make positive changes in your life and even boost your self-esteem!
If you catch yourself frequently having negative self-talk, positive affirmations can be used to help change your negative thought patterns and replace them with positive ones.
How To Practice Positive Affirmations
To practice, positive affirmations all you do is pick something you want to work on or a goal you want to achieve and use the statement to affirm that the goal is already completed.
You can use positive affirmations in any situation where you would like to see a change in your life or a change in how you feel about a situation in your life. These might include:
- Reaching a goal
- Overcoming a bad habits
- Improving a relationship
- To help you have a better attitude
- Control negative feelings such as anger, frustration or pessimism
E.g. if you want to work on being happy here are some affirmations
- I am happy and blessed
- I find joy in my life and experiences
- Each day I find reasons to be happy
- I am grateful for my friend for bringing me joy
According to psychotherapist Ronald Alexander, affirmations can be repeated up to three to five times daily to reinforce the positive belief. Writing your affirmations down in a journal and practising them in the mirror is a good way to make them more powerful and effective (Alexander, 2011).
The Science Behind Positive Affirmations
Some people might think positive affirmations are ‘wishful thinking and don’t actually work, but there is a science to back them up!
One of the key psychological theories behind positive affirmations is the self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988).
Self-affirmation theory is underpinned by three key ideas.
1) Through positive affirmations, we keep a positive narrative about ourselves, which in turn makes us view ourselves in a better light, which means we are better at adapting to situations. (Aronson, 1969).
2) The theory also states that ensuring we have self-identity isn’t all about being perfect, rather we just need to be good enough in different areas of our lives in order to be more flexible (Steele, 1988).
3) We tend to act on these statements, for example, we don’t say “I am a responsible mother” just to be praised, we say it because we want to deserve that praise for acting in ways that coincide with that value.
But wait, there’s more! Researchers decided to test the theory with MRI’s to see if there were any changes in the brain when we use positive affirmations.
The results showed that certain neural pathways involved in positive valuation and self-related information processors were increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks (Cascio et al., 2016).
Positive affirmations require regular practice if you want to make lasting, long-term changes to the ways that you think and feel.
Some Extra Tips
If you aren’t sure where to start, write down a persistent negative thought that you have then choose an affirmation that is the opposite of that thought.
For example, if your thought is, "I'm not smart enough to progress in my career," turn this around and write a positive affirmation such as, "I am a skilled, proficient and experienced professional."
Be sure to write your affirmations in the present tense. This helps reinforce the thought, which will help you start to believe that the statement is true. For example, "I am organised and well-rehearsed, and I can give a great presentation" would be a great affirmation to use if you are feeling anxious about an upcoming presentation.
Say it like you mean it! Affirmations will be more effective if it is said or written with emotion. Be sure the affirmation you are repeating to yourself is meaningful to you.
Alexander, R. (2011). 5 Steps To Make Affirmations Work For You. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-wise-open-mind/201108/5-steps-make-affirmations-work-you
Cascio, C. N., O’donnell, M. B., Tinney, F. J., Lieberman, M. D., Taylor, S. E., Strecher, V. J., & Falk, E. B. (2015). Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(4), 621-629. Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 21. Social psychological studies of the self: Perspectives and programs (pp. 261-302). San Diego, CA, US: Academic Press.
How to benefit from positive affirmations How to benefit from positive affirmations How to benefit from positive affirmations