Our thoughts and beliefs shape both our perception and experience of ourselves, and the world around us. In the mental health world, affirmations are short, encouraging statements that you can use to create a more positive frame of mind.
Affirmation statements interrupt the barrage of negative thoughts that go on in our minds. The purpose of positive affirmations is to affirm to ourselves that things are good, even if we don’t necessarily feel that way at the time. Positive affirmations have the power to transform lives. They play a significant role in many therapeutic models—including cognitive behavioural therapy. Though the process may seem silly if you’re new to it, affirmations have the power to drastically improve lives by freeing people from their own cycles of negativity and self-doubt.
The problem with negative thoughts is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. We talk ourselves into believing that we’re not good enough. And, as a result, these thoughts drag down our personal lives, our relationships, and our careers. Using affirmations is a practice of recognising and changing thoughts on a day to day basis. Eventually, positive thoughts can transform cognitive patterns, and negative thoughts may become less prominent.
With so many of us facing new challenges every day, now could be the perfect time to turn positivity into a regular habit. Ready to get started? Keep these tips in mind.
1. Make it personal
The more personal the affirmations are, the more likely they are to work for you. Structure your affirmation as if it’s already true. Begin with I or my, this increases the chance you’ll behave in ways that make it true. For example: “My team respects and values my opinion” or “I have positive, healthy, and supportive relationships with my loved ones”.
2. Add affirmations to your routine
You can repeat an affirmation to yourself as often as you’d like — while brushing your teeth, waiting in line, or before you fall asleep. The more often you use an affirmation, the more it can help reinforce your value and self-worth.
3. Healthy coping behaviours
Consider that nosy neighbour who always asks questions about your personal life. You don’t want to say anything to offend, but you also have no intention of answering their questions. An affirmation like “I can remain calm even when I feel annoyed” might guide you to a habit of deep breathing or performing grounding exercises, when your blood begins to boil.
4. Bring in values
It helps to link affirmations to core values, such as kindness, honesty, or dedication. This can help to remain focused on the broader picture of what really matters. Post small reminders in your office, in your home, and anywhere you spend a significant amount of time. Seeing your affirmations regularly can help to keep them at the centre of your thoughts.
Affirmations can be more effective when they carry emotional weight. You need to want this change to happen, so every affirmation that you choose to repeat should be a phrase that’s meaningful to you. An affirmation like “I am fearless.” What if you have plenty of fears and saying it only brings them all back? You can repeat this affirmation over and over, but if you don’t really believe you’re fearless, it’s unlikely you’ll become fearless from the affirmation alone. Try something more believable and useful like: “I have anxious thoughts, but I also have the power to challenge and change them.”
6. Connect it to the present
As time passes, check in with yourself. Are the affirmations helping you maintain control over your worries and practice self-compassion? Or do they have little impact since you don’t believe them yet? With the culture of work changing, an affirmation like “my work satisfies me, and I know I’m making a difference” reminds you of the things that a salary alone cannot provide.
Repeating an affirmation can help boost your motivation and confidence, but you still must take some action yourself. Try thinking of affirmations as a step toward change, not the change itself. Affirmations can lead to a more positive self-image over time, but they aren’t all-powerful. If you aren’t seeing much improvement, reaching out to a professional may be a more helpful step.