Many people on social media have been sharing their use of affirmations in morning routines, daily life, classrooms, workplaces, and more. Affirmations are short phrases using present tense language that affirm positive outlooks or outcomes. But the question is, do they really help? Can you use them to improve your mental health and become more confident? Do they work hand in hand with therapy? In this blog, we will look at what affirmations are, some examples, and the science behind utilizing affirmations.
What Are Affirmations?
Often referred to as positive affirmations, the phrases are used to help curb negative patterns, motivate action, limit anxiety or fear, encourage perseverance, or increase confidence. Multiple affirmation apps, card sets, and faith-based affirmations exist on the internet today. Affirmations can also be written or changed by the person utilizing them to make them fit their specific needs.
Utilizing affirmations helps us to have a positive image of ourselves and change the way we view situations. They take negative situations or self-talk and spin it to be more positive. Some examples of affirmations can include:
- “I can learn from my mistakes.”
- “I am confident.”
- “I wake up motivated.”
- “Each and every day, I am getting closer to achieving my goals.”
- “I am excited to enter a new and amazing phase in my life.”
- “I know difficult situations are only temporary.”
- “My past might be ugly, but I am still beautiful.”
Affirmations utilize present tense because you are working with a concept called neuroplasticity. You are working to make your brain believe that the goal is already being achieved as you are working to achieve it. Instead of just hoping for good things to happen, affirmations help you to see that they already are.
Claude Steele popularized self-affirmation theory in the 1980s. This theory states that we are able to maintain self-integrity and are able to hold strong to our core values and beliefs. Self-affirmation helps to establish your identity and keep it intact when life changes or threats plague your life.
As we define ourselves, we are able to see different perspectives of success, happiness, and confidence. Each individual will have different goals and aspirations, so self-affirmation theory will help you make choices that align with your values and beliefs. This also helps us to earn praise and acknowledgment, which is often needed for us to feel like our presence matters.
Avoid Broad Affirmations
Just like setting goals, making too broad of a statement will not be as effective as a more specific statement. Affirmations are similar and should not be looked at as too broad, or too specific (i.e. striving for perfection). Utilizing affirmations such as “I really like myself” can set you up to judge yourself and may not align with what you truly believe about yourself.
Affirmations are most helpful in specific situations that help you reframe your negative thoughts. The whole goal is to eventually make you believe the affirmations you are saying. Increasing your confidence will help you to push yourself to do bigger tasks, thus helping you grow as a person. If your affirmations are not specific enough and are not utilized consistently enough their effectiveness decreases.
Increase Self Confidence
For those with anxiety, fear around public speaking, traumatic pasts, or other debilitating mental illness, utilizing affirmations can help you see that these hard situations can be overcome. For example, if you utilize affirmations to overcome fear about presenting to a team, or driving from one city to another, you now have the confidence and skills to overcome a bigger challenge. Affirmations can help you reframe negative thoughts which can eliminate the fear surrounding specific situations.
Reduce Negative Stress
Affirmations are also commonly used during meditation or mindfulness practices. Utilizing phrases like “I am financially successful,” “I accept and thrive in the season I am in,” “I feel confident in changing careers,” “My anxiety does not control me,” etc. can help you refocus your thoughts and limit stress. The more personal your affirmations are, the better they will work to help you approach situations with a calm demeanor.
Consistent and focused affirmations can limit worry and stress. While some meditation and affirmations can help, if you are having persistent anxiety, fear, or self-doubt, it is best to seek professional help. Performing better in a stressful world can be accomplished by utilizing multiple mental health resources.
How To Make Affirmations Work For You
If you want specific affirmations to work in your best interest, follow these guidelines.
- Decide on a purpose: Ask yourself what you want to accomplish. Do you want reassurance or to gain more confidence? Are you working towards a goal and want to take extra steps to reach it? Do you need reassurance between therapy visits? Doing this step first will make utilizing affirmations more effective.
- Keep it short: Affirmations are often best when repeated or combined together. Keep the phrases short and quick so that you can say them multiple times or think about them quickly in a stressful situation.
- Be authentic: Choosing something that is true for you. If you don’t even slightly believe what the affirmations say, they won’t work.
- Write them down: Studies have shown that writing goals and thoughts down helps our brain to better navigate them. Writing down your affirmations will help you remember them and repeat them, but also help you see how your values change after your self-confidence has grown.
- Make it a daily habit: Making something a habit makes it much easier to implement in every daily task. Forming good habits help you become more successful in life.
Utilizing affirmations as part of your mental health practices can give you better skills to handle hard situations. Ogden Psychological Services encourages forming better habits, utilizing positive affirmations, and seeking therapy when needed.
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