What are affirmations?
Affirmations are short, positive statements that are designed to help you combat negativity and challenge self-sabotaging thoughts. When you repeat them often, they affect your conscious and subconscious mind and can kickstart positive changes in your thought process, your emotions, and your actions.
Some consider affirmations as “wishful thinking”, wondering if a few optimistic statements can bring real change in our lives. But just as we exercise regularly to improve our physique, affirmations serve as an exercise for our mind and outlook. Positive mental repetitions reprogram our thought patterns, but only if practiced consistently. Over time, we internalize these statements and start thinking and acting differently. If you’re still unsure, this observation is thoroughly backed by science. One study showed that a short affirmation exercise improved the problem-solving abilities of “chronically stressed” subjects, bringing it to the same level as those with less stress.
Moreover, affirmations have been successfully used to treat those with low self-esteem, depression, and various other mental health conditions. How you may ask? Well, affirmations stimulate areas in our minds that make us more likely to strive for positive change concerned with our health and wellbeing.
However, just like we have positive affirmations to invoke optimism, we are also faced with negative affirmations that shape our conscious or unconscious minds. Many of us remember being scolded by a teacher, parent, or elder on our ability to do something. We’ve been told we’re too fat, too clumsy, too careless, or even unworthy and as we hear these unwholesome statements repeatedly, we end up believing them, reinforcing them in our lives. These unwholesome beliefs can easily override positive affirmations if they are deeply rooted in our unconscious mind. This is why many believe that affirmations don’t work for them, as their negative thought patterns are so strong it knocks the positive statement off its feet.
To help you add more muscle to an affirmation to overcome negative thinking, let’s take a look at a few other reasons why you should practice positive affirmations.
Rewire the brain
Affirmations activate the reward centers of the brain – the region of the brain that produces feelings of reward or pleasure when stimulated with pleasurable experiences like eating delicious food or receiving an award. Furthermore, affirmations have the power of rewiring the brain. Just like we get dogged in the defeatism of negative affirmations, repeating positive statements can help us believe them, over time, inculcating a sense of optimism instead.
Decrease stress levels
Stress causes the cortisol level in our body to rise significantly. This leads to a change in blood pressure, disrupted sleep, and low mood. However, when we practice affirmations regularly, they help reduce our cortisol levels and protect us from the adverse effects that stress brings.
Sometimes all you need is some encouragement. And who better to provide that than you yourself. Repeating positive statements to yourself like “I can do this” or “I am capable of success” can help internalize these encouraging messages. This brings a sense of renewed motivation and confidence that helps you accomplish more in the day.
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Fosters growth mindset
Having a stagnant mindset of believing your abilities and strengths are fixed can stop you from evolving with life’s changing circumstances. When practiced right and regularly, affirmations are a great way to inspire yourself to be flexible, accommodating, and open-minded towards new opportunities.
Now that we’ve established the positive effects of affirmations, let’s talk about the five steps you can take to make them more effective and powerful.
Write down a list of all the negative thoughts, statements, and sentences you’ve had about yourself or had someone say to you. This could be something your sibling, parent, boss, anybody said that left a lasting impact. Don’t indulge in judgment or attachment even if some of these statements are accurate. Remember, we’re all human, we all have our own flaws. Look for a theme in your statement as that will serve as the perfect place to make a change.
When you jot down these beliefs, find awareness in your body. Check where you’re holding tension, do you feel a tightness in your chest? Your throat, stomach, or heart? Be aware of this tightness to understand why these messages are affecting you so adversely.
Next, write down an affirmation based on a strength of yours that combats the negative self-judgement. You can use powerful words to improve your statement. For example; instead of saying “I am capable”, say, “I am efficient and accomplished”.
We’ve put together 20 wonderful affirmations that will help you conquer the new year with confidence and grace.
Say the affirmation out loud for five minutes, three times a day. Do it every morning, mid-day, and evening. The perfect time to do this is during your routine habits, especially when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror. Another way to ingrain the thought in your mind is to write it down several times in a notebook. As you keep writing it or repeating it daily, notice over time how your mind is perceiving the new concept. Do you feel differently? Has your writing style changed? Are you more inclined to practice affirmations daily?
Attach the affirmation to your body by resting your palm on the spot that seemed to hurt when you wrote out the negative statement in step one. Breathe into the affirmation as you say or write it each time. This will help you embody the thought that you’re trying to instil into your mind.
Ask a friend or family member to say the affirmation out loud, as if they’re saying it to you. As they do so, identify the statement as good mothering or good fathering messages. If you’re uncomfortable asking someone else then repeat it to your reflection in the mirror, identify this reflection as the person who is reinforcing the positive message.
To get you started, here are a few powerful affirmations that invoke a sense of peace within.
No one size fits all when it comes to affirmations. Granted, they are a great way to improve self-esteem, self-confidence, and state of mind but they only work after you’ve identified the unwholesome thoughts and emotions that are holding you back. With a little practice, affirmations can steer you clear of negative thoughts and bring a happier, brighter outlook towards you.