I believe in continuous self improvement and doing whatever is in my power to make life better. For me, daily affirmations have been a subtle yet effective way to improve my life.
With the uncertainty of each day, our extended quarantine, and unknown viral spread, I have found myself using affirmations more frequently. Combine this with my requirement to go to the hospital each day (essential, front line worker over here), and I have found that affirmations are one way to feel I have some control over my situation.
So today I am sharing all things affirmations with you. I’ll also be sharing the exact ones I use (and how to make your own) so you can start incorporating them into your life.
First, a little background. What are Affirmations?
In the simplest terms, affirmations are positive statements or phrases used to redirect thoughts. They are useful to challenge negative thinking or for reinforce positive behavior.
Why do we need Affirmations?
If you consider how humans think and interact, we each have specific ideas about how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us.
We also have thoughts about our ability to control outcomes and be flexible in the face of difficulties or when our safety is threatened. These things are all part of your sense of self.
Personal values and sense of self are intertwined with resilience. When challenges and uncertainty arise (like what we are currently experiencing), our sense of self helps us maintain an optimistic mindset and counter negative thoughts. This sense of self is also what encourages us to reach out, foster a sense of community, and assist others during danger or uncertainty.
By focusing on positive statements (to counter the negativity we are experiencing), we create narratives that are hopeful and encourage adaptation to these challenging situations.
In a sense, we perceive we can protect ourselves from threats by maintaining a positive outlook and acting in ways that support our personal values. Things like being kind to others, offering support, etc. It’s our way of exercising control over a situation that may be out of our hands.
Further, in times of stress, uncertainty or negativity, our thought patterns can begin to fester and steer us toward a negative, anxiety-ridden path. Affirmations are one way to stop spiraling thoughts before they gain mental traction. To cut them off before they grow like ivy in our minds.
What’s the science?
Early MRI studies have shown that you can strengthen and reinforce positive neural pathways in the brain by practicing affirmations. Routinely using affirmations can build those positivity pathways, similar to how working out strengthens specific muscles.
To get specific, the area of the brain associated with positive valuation and information processing (called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) shows more electrical excitement when we participate in activities that reinforce personal values and a sense of self, such as repeating affirmations or doing acts of kindness for others.
Beneath the surface: Theories suggest that what we believe about ourselves on a subconscious level plays a role in the manifestation of our desires. By focusing on positive affirmations, we can reprogram ourselves to believe certain things which can then impact the outcome of events.
The converse of this is the idea that negative self-perspectives and poor beliefs about ourselves can be the cause of health problems.
Some theories believe that positive thinking and affirmations have the power to transform our lives & health in our desired direction as long as we take the actions to support our words and wishes. This is a simplified basis for cognitive restructuring. Studies are currently being done to confirm this idea.
Benefits of Positive Affirmations:
- Encourage positive, happy thoughts and feelings
- Decrease stress
- Mitigate worry and reduce the tendency to focus on negative experiences
- Improve problem-solving capabilities
- Increase adherence to positive self change, such as diet or exercise changes
- Foster a broader, more positive sense of self
- Help motivate us
- Reverse negative internal messages
- Can positively impact academic achievement
- Help us become more open-minded and less defensive or resistant in the face of negativity and threats
- Foster resilience, making us open and receptive to negative information, and foster feelings of empowerment to adapt
- Relieve anxiety and mitigate exhaustion
I have personally been using positive affirmations for a couple of years. I find I am less stressed, a better friend and coworker, a better problem-solver and overall my anxiety is greatly reduced.
I recently re-vamped my routine to include affirmations that help with mindset, preparation, and feeling empowered before heading to work each day. The hospital is a dynamic place with many stressors and unknowns. These affirmations have made a difference in how I show up for myself and my patients each day.
How to get started with Affirmations:
- Try to practice your affirmations regularly. Start with repeating them once in the morning as soon as you get up and once right before bed.
- Ideally, you want to be in a relaxed, comfortable space.
- Take slow deep breaths.
- Try to block out distractions.
- Focus on saying the words, either out loud or silently to yourself and focus on how that affirmation will make you feel when it becomes part of your day and routine.
- Focusing on the feeling of it being true or becoming true is important.
- If you feel comfortable, repeat your affirmations in front of a mirror.
Make sure you are focusing on incorporating both the belief in your affirmation and the behavior to help make it a reality. You need both.
How-to create your own:
Affirmations can be made about any and all topics, but there are a few points to consider as you formulate your own.
Ensure you are taking your core personal values into consideration crafting your affirmations. As long as your statements align with what you believe to be moral, worthwhile, and inherently good, they will serve you well.
Consider your current strengths to help guide your affirmations. Use first-person language and reference traits you know to be true as you create your affirmations. This will make them easier to adopt.
Remember, affirmations are statements that encourage positive thoughts, feelings, and attitudes. Think about values you would like to add to your life or things you want to change for the better.
If you need examples or inspiration, there are a few apps that specialize in affirmations and can help you implement them in your life. ThinkUp, Shine, and Unique Daily affirmations are good options. I am not an affiliate for any of these suggestions, but I do highly recommend them.
There’s also a great audio book called Rewire Your Brain: 300 Affirmations for Positive thinking for ideas. You can find it online.
A parting thought: When you use affirmations, I believe you are speaking your future.
Language is an extension of our thoughts, and thoughts become things. So for me, affirmations are a subtle way to help think and speak truths into the future.
Let me know if you give my affirmations list a try, and how it helps you!