If you had a dollar for every time you heard or saw the word ‘affirmation’, what would you buy? Seriously though, if you subscribe to the self-care and wellness spaces, affirmations have been something you’ve interacted with a couple of times. You’ve probably also had the pleasure of owning an affirmation card deck. And you know what, that’s great; but are your affirmations effectively boosting your self-confidence, self-compassion and motivating you to get to your desired behaviors?
Before we get into the juicy part of this post, let’s talk about what affirmations are, why we use them and how they work. Essentially, affirmations are an intentional form of positive self-talk that you use to tell yourself supportive and encouraging things. We use affirmations to disrupt learnt negative thought patterns & limiting beliefs and replace them with self-confidence, self-compassion & belief in ourselves. In fact, you’ve probably affirmed yourself unknowingly by telling yourself things like “I’m doing my best.”
So how does repeating a bunch of simple statements to yourself help you think and therefore feel more positive and confident? Well, basically, our brains are pretty cool. They have this ability called neuroplasticity (don’t worry we won’t get too sciency here) which means our brains can change and adapt to different situations. So when we regularly repeat positive statements about ourselves, we’re building new neural pathways in our brains and in turn encouraging our brains to take these positive affirmations as facts while strengthening positive thought patterns.
While reciting and repeating affirmations can help in all these ways, you also have to take some action. Like many other self-help tools, affirmations are a step towards change, but not the change itself. And while they can offer an avenue for positive change, their benefits depend on how you use them. For this month’s #WritingForWellness campaign, we thought we’d share a few tips on making your affirmations work effectively for you.
1. Setting Them In The Present
For affirmations to actually help you change your patterns & beliefs, it's good practice to speak from the present perspective. The key to affirmations is that they strengthen your confidence by reminding you what you're capable of doing now. Think of neuroplasticity here, you’re repeating affirmations to help you change patterns and beliefs that have been with you for a long while and a great way to bring about this change is by speaking and acting as though you’re already there -fake it till you make it; kind of.
2. Stay Grounded In Reality
Affirmations are more helpful when they're centered on realistic, acceptable and achievable statements. If your affirmations focus on statements that you may not believe or see as true, they'll have little to no effect. Instead of using ultra-positive affirmations like "I'm beautiful" try neutral & specific statements like "I love my smile". In time you’ll start noticing your thought pattern about your appearance changing and you can now change your affirmation to a more ‘challenging’ but believable statement like “I feel beautiful today”.
3. Make It Personal
With how popular they’ve become, you can find affirmations everywhere and it's okay to pick and use something you read and resonated with. However, as much as possible, try to tailor affirmations to your goals, feelings & current state. For example you may be trying to love yourself more, you can say something like "I choose to speak kindly to myself today". Think about your goals and values and link your affirmations to these.
Remember to repeat your affirmations as much as possible and to be patient with yourself; it’s been months or years of self-limiting beliefs, they won’t change overnight, so give yourself some grace and patience. And while affirmations are great tools for self-improvement but they may not work for everyone. If affirmations don’t seem to be changing your thought patterns or leave you feeling worse, that’s okay, just go back to the drawing board and see what tool can help you best and maybe speak to a therapist or coach and see what you can change.