Do Affirmations Really Work? The Truth Behind This Psychological Practice
From the latest self-help books to inspirational speakers, you've likely heard the popular practice of speaking positive affirmations. You may have even tried adding this to your self care regimen... but do they really work?
Our daughter began doing affirmations with me in front of the mirror when she was two years old. It was beautiful to watch her eyes light up with pride as she puffed out her chest to state, "I am brave". Or watch her soften her facial expression, placing her little hands over her heart as she affirmed, "I am kind." While I may not know of the effectiveness of doing so for years to come, the bonding experience of this little tradition has been enjoyable for both of us. So do affirmations work to improve our mental and emotional well-being?
According to this article published in The Washington Post,
"Affirming things about yourself that you value can help bolster your overall sense of self and self-worth, and it can improve your ability to cope with destabilizing experiences."
It's not enough that we speak words and expect them to become true. We must align our positive affirmations with the values we consider important to us and open our hearts enough to truly believe them. And when we do, they can certainly work to improve our self image!
Consistent with the other areas of healing I'm honored to support and guide, it's all about the energy. If you want your affirmations to be effective, the energy you put behind them is even more important than the words you choose to focus on. Here are a six ways to ensure your time spent writing or speaking affirmations works for you.
1) Choose Your Words Wisely
Pick meaningful statements that indicate the state of being you'd like to be in. For example, rather than "I will" statements, say "I am" instead. If we speak to the future it only reinforces to your mind that you are not yet in the place you'd like to be. By using present tense rather than future, you train yourself to believe your goals to be the current state of existence.
2) Feel Your New Reality
As you speak (or write) your affirmations, take time to really feel yourself in that place. Envision what this feels and looks like in full detail. Picture what you'd like your life to be. By doing so you allow your nervous system to acclimate to this new reality, rather than resist any changes that may seem uncomfortable at first.
3) Stay Consistent
It takes time and consistency to retrain your previous patterns of thought and replace them with your intentionally chosen ones. As suggested in the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, it's easiest to add a new habit when you pair it with one you already do every day. You may decide to put your affirmations on the mirror you look at when brushing your teeth and fixing your hair for the day, or speak them every morning as you make your bed (if you already make your bed every day). You could put a note in you car to shift your focus toward positive change rather than worrying as you drive to work.
4) Change the Way You Speak
If you start the morning by affirming, "I am smart and loved" only to counter that throughout the day as you converse with others... you're working against yourself. "Oh I'm so stupid" to a friend when you make a mistake or whispering "Nobody cares about my feelings" to yourself when you're having a tough day sense us in the opposite direction as intended. Too many of us sneak little digs at ourselves into our communication with others, disguised as self deprecating humor. Our mind doesn't know the difference, it simply believes what we tell it.
5) Involve Those You Love
By teaching our daughter to say affirmations, I ended up affirming the very same things to myself! If you happen to be a millennial mom like myself who grew up with old school rap and hip hop, none other than Snoop Dogg himself made an excellent song entitled "The Affirmation Song". It may be targeted toward children but you just might find yourself jamming in the car to it after dropping the kiddos off at school.
Share with a close friend or family member who is also geared toward growth that you're working on positive mindset shifts and invite them to join you. You can be one another's cheerleaders and accountability partners, checking in on how the affirmation journey is going. You can also help to catch one another if negative self talk creeps into conversation.
6) Be Mindful of What You Consume
If you're seeking to grow a meaningful relationship with someone who respects and honors you... but you listen to and sing music with lyrics that degrades women, your affirmations are being contradicted. If you are working on bettering your body image... but you follow influencers on social media that make you feel bad about your own body, your affirmations are being contradicted. If you are working on lowering your anxiety and fear... but you watch the news two or three times a day, your affirmations are being contradicted.
Support your sense of self-worth and confidence by being intentional in the words you choose, and the content you consume. Include the people important to you who you know will be supportive. Work on fully embodying the feeling of each affirmation and grow to believe in the words you speak. Use helpful tools like these intentionally created affirmation printable cards, made for personal use or to share with family, friends, or clients in a professional setting. Follow these tips to make affirmations work for you!