Affirmations: How They Work & How To Use Them
Have you ever heard someone talk about affirmations and thought "I don't know, that’s not really for me", I get it. Affirmations are often dismissed as a new-age concept. But what you don’t realise is that you already use affirmations all the time. Every time you say to yourself that you can achieve something, or that you’ve got what it takes – that’s an affirmation. If you’re a person of faith you may think that using affirmations is not for you - but if you repeat statements to yourself consisting of what God says about you, that’s an affirmation (or a declaration if you prefer). Affirmations are simply positive statements that describe your desired thoughts or outcomes, and they help you to focus on what you want rather than what you don’t.
What Are Affirmations?
Affirmations are positive statements that describe a desired situation or outcome that may not be currently true. They are an amazing tool to help you achieve your goals. They work by reprogramming your subconscious thoughts and beliefs about yourself and the world around you. When you regularly say an affirmation to yourself, preferably out loud, the brain will begin working on creating new neural pathways for those thoughts and behaviours.
Affirmations may seem like unrealistic wishful thinking but try viewing them from this perspective. Millions of people exercise regularly to improve their physical health, and affirmations are basically like exercises for your mind and beliefs. For example, the more your self-esteem grows as you regularly say affirmations targeted towards a better self-image, the more likely you are to change your habits, make healthier food choices and workout more (if that is one of your goals).
The more often you say "I can do anything I put my mind to" the more your brain will accept it as fact. When you truly believe in your ability to accomplish something it is inevitable that your actions will follow.
Positive affirmations can prepare you to perform better during high pressure situations, such as during interviews or when giving a speech. If you're studying to take an important test, affirmations can calm your nerves and boost your confidence.
If your goal is to be more successful in your career, successful people swear by positive daily affirmations. Napoleon Hill, who is considered the modern father of positive thought and affirmations, interviewed over 500 successful men. In his book he stated that creative visualization and affirmations was one of the main secrets to their success.
The Science Behind Why Affirmations Work
Positive affirmations are based on psychological theories that have been widely accepted and well established. In a journal published by SCAN (Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience) they found that after studying MRI’s that using affirmations activated the reward regions in your brain. By saying “I am confident” it lights up the same reward regions that respond to pleasurable experiences like eating your favourite food or winning an award. It ignites your neural pathways and makes changes to those areas in your brain that make you feel happy and optimistic.
Our brain creates neural pathways with every thought we have. Therefore, we should be mindful of our thoughts and try to think empowering thoughts as much as we can. By repeating positive affirmations our brains will eventually develop new, positive neural pathways that will be just as strong - if not stronger - than their negative counterparts. This is why affirmations are so effective for bringing about positive change.
Your mind can sometimes get mixed up about the difference between reality and imagination, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The great thing about affirmations is that they teach your brain to think differently about how you perceive things. If you repeated affirmations to give you the confidence to start your own business, your mind will start searching for signs to achieve your goal. Your subconscious mind will start presenting what it finds to your conscious mind. You’ll start noticing tips and tools to help you get started everywhere. The more you feed your mind with positivity, the more positive things will show up in your life.
What To Do If You Feel Affirmations Are Not Working
Positive affirmations are not about completely eliminating negative thoughts. They will help you to focus on positive thoughts and not to dwell on the negative.
When you initially start saying affirmation and you have low self-esteem, you may find them hard to believe. This is due to the conflict they create between the positive state that you desire and the negative feelings you are experiencing in that moment. The way to overcome this is to find ways to boost your self-esteem.
Here are 12 tips for boosting your self-esteem when it is low:
- Stop criticizing yourself.
- Use positive self-affirmations to build your self-perception.
- Exercise and stay active.
- Accept mistakes as part of growth.
- Don’t compare yourself to others.
- Surround yourself with supportive people.
- Focus on the things in your life that you can change.
- Dwell on your positive qualities.
- Complete an act of self-care every day.
- Do something regularly that makes you happy.
- Try something new.
- Celebrate small wins.
Psychologist Lauren Alexander, PhD states that “If you’re typically a negative thinker, it’s not realistic to expect to become a positive thinker overnight”. If you are a negative thinker check out this article about How To Stop Negative Self-Talk by Dr Alexander which explains exactly what negative self-talk is and how you can stop it.
How To Start Using Affirmations
Here are some tips to help you start using affirmations right away. If you still have doubts, I want you to put your scepticism on hold. In the beginning, you may not feel like you truly believe what you are reading or saying, but you should aim to connect with each statement, if even for just a moment.
- Allocate at least 5 – 10 minutes for you to recite or listen to affirmations each day. For optimal results you should repeat them 2 to 3 times per day.
- You can stand in front of a mirror and repeat the affirmations. Don’t worry about what your body looks like, or if you feel self-conscious, the more you do it the more comfortable you'll feel. Standing in front of a mirror and saying nice things to yourself can feel strange at first but resist the urge to give up. Look yourself in the eyes and repeat each statement out loud.
- Listen to affirmations and make them personal and meaningful to you. If you want to focus on improving your confidence, listen to affirmations targeting that area.
- Journal your affirmations – this will help you to connect with them.
- When you have finished you should breathe deeply and focus on the positive emotions you are feeling. Familiarise yourself with that feeling and carry it with you into your day.
Take a look at our 10 minute YouTube video of positive affirmations that’s perfect for listening to not just in the morning, but anytime you want a positivity boost.
It was my pleasure to write this article about affirmations and how they work, and I hope you found it informative and helpful. Affirmations are one of my favorite tools to use for self-development simply because they are so easy, yet very effective.
Check out our Confidence Collection – this collection was created with the aim of boosting your self-esteem and empower you to believe in yourself.
Repeating affirmations every day is the key to success. Over time your confidence, self-belief and self-esteem will increase. Your goals of feeling good, having more energy and being more productive are within your reach.