In the midst of a global pandemic, we know it can be quite challenging to stay happy and motivated at times, especially with no end to COVID in sight. To cope with these hard times, we’ve been incorporating a lot of meditation into our daily routine, relying on the power of positive affirmations to bring more light into our days.
What are affirmations
While many people speak about affirmations, not many people have actually practiced it or read through a guide. And for first-timers especially, the idea and exercise itself can seem downright awkward. However, there are many proven psychological benefits to practicing affirmations, but before we get into that, let me explain what it’s about. Essentially, affirmations are positive statements used to challenge negative or self-deprecating thoughts. Practicing positive affirmations can be extremely simple, all you need to do is think of an uplifting phrase and repeat it to yourself!
To combat subconscious, detrimental patterns and routines
Affirmations vary depending on what your current situation is in life, and differs from person to person. Whether you want to motivate yourself, encourage positive changes in your life, or boost self-esteem, it’s extremely helpful to tailor your affirmation to YOU (instead of just using general phrases). We all engage in negative self-talk, some more extreme than others, but the purpose of positive affirmations is to combat these subconscious, detrimental patterns and routines, and replace them with a more helpful narrative. One thing to keep in mind, is that in order for affirmations to actually work and make lasting, long-term changes to the way you think and feel, it requires regular practice.
How do I start it
Based upon the ‘self-affirmation theory’ (Steele, 1988), this Psychological theory states that we can preserve our sense of self-integrity by telling ourselves our beliefs in positive ways, especially when faced with a threat or challenge. There are three key concepts behind this theory:
First, is our flexible concept of self-identity. We are able to see ourselves adopting a range of identities and roles throughout the course of life. This means that we can acknowledge different aspects of ourselves, and define success in various ways.
Secondly, our sense of self-identity requires us to be (at least) competent in the areas that we personally value.
Lastly, humans have a need to maintain self-integrity. We maintain self-integrity by acting in ways that deserve acknowledgment or praise. The combination of all this means that when we create an affirmation, we don’t merely seek to hear some nice compliments or praise, but we actually seek to live up to that praise.
There is an overwhelming amount of evidence from various neuroscientific research that has seen beneficial changes in the brain when we self-affirm in positive ways. Such as, lowering health-detrimental stress; promoting motivation for physical activity and behavior; helping us perceive otherwise “threatening” messages with less resistance; making us more willing to change for the better; improving academic achievement in students; and lastly, self-affirmation is proven to lower stress and negative thinking.
All of these findings suggest that positive affirmations can help us to respond in a less defensive and resistant way in general. We become more adaptive overall, with a broader sense of self that makes us more resilient to challenges when they arise. Whether it’s pressures from work, family, social life or just self-doubt and insecurities, a broader self-concept can be an extremely helpful thing to have.
Guidelines for creating powerful daily affirmations
Now that you are fully aware of the benefits of affirmations and the science behind it, I want to share with you a set of guidelines for creating powerful daily affirmations that can help change your life. Here are 6 rules for creating effective positive statements:
- Start your sentence with “I am.” These are perhaps the two most powerful words in the English language. If you begin your affirmations with phrases like “I want” or “I need” then you are only affirming the feeling of wanting and/or needing. Your aim is to affirm the feeling and experience of already having what you desire.
- Write in present tense. Always write as though you have achieved what you desire right now. Using future tense or words like “I will be” or “By next month” only affirms that your goal is always slightly out of reach.
- Positive statements only. Write about what you want in life, not what you don’t want. Do not write about what you are trying to avoid or eliminate. Write about things in a positive way, or try to maintain a grateful tone of voice. Include phrases like “I’m so grateful now that I am…” or “I love that I am…”. An easy practice is to imagine that you have already accomplished your goals, and then describe yourself in that happy, positive light.
- Include at least one word that describes a feeling or emotion. When you describe your feelings about your affirmations, you connect with them more deeply, allowing them to be more effective. Your affirmations have more power if you experience them on both a thinking and feeling level.
- Consider using “I choose” or “I expect” as alternatives. In order for an affirmation to be effective, the statement has to be believable or considered possible, so the conscious mind can overcome internal rejection. If some of your affirmations are a bit difficult to believe, then consider adding “I choose” or “I expect” to them. For example, rather than writing “I am fit and healthy”, you could write “I choose to eat well and exercise daily”. Or “I expect to be successful in everything I do”. Writing about your choices or expectations helps dissolve any underlying doubts you may have about yourself.
- Write in your own voice. Don’t worry too much about correct grammar or sounding proper. Keep it brief and use words and phrases that are authentic to the way you think and speak. You are writing for yourself…so be as silly or as serious or plain or colorful as you like…just be you!
Writing affirmations should be a fun, exciting and empowering experience. The process should be enjoyable, so try not to get too caught up in the details of what you are writing. Affirmations are designed to encourage an optimistic mindset, and we can all afford to be a little more forgiving and kind to ourselves during these unsure times.