By: Kimberly Hill, MSW, LCSW
Most people, at one time or another, have struggled with negative thoughts about themselves or the world around them. While there are a number of ways to deal with such thoughts, one of the easiest and most effective methods to do so is by using positive affirmations. There are many different affirmations that you can say each day; the key is finding which work best for you and learning how to use them effectively.
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation or “positive affirmation” is a phrase or quote you say to yourself in order to combat or challenge overwhelming negative thoughts. Many people say positive affirmations or read quotes to help change their current mindset or motivate them to accomplish a task. The goal of using or saying a positive affirmation is to train your mind to see things in a different, more positive light and help you focus on the good.
Examples of affirmations
So, what exactly do affirmations or positive affirmations look like? Listed below are a few examples that can help improve your daily thoughts!
- Today is going to be a great day!
- You are amazing!
- I can do it!
- I am in charge of my actions and words!
- I am ENOUGH.
- I am proud of myself.
- Today, I choose to be confident.
- I believe in my goals and dreams.
- I can get through anything I put my mind to.
- Everything will be OK.
Benefits of affirmations
The use of positive affirmations are reported to decrease stress and advance academic or career support. Psychologists have found the benefits of speaking or writing affirmation is similar to those of exercising — but for your brain!
Positive affirmations have been shown to reduce negative thoughts, as they allow you to become more aware of your thought patterns and feelings. This, in turn, makes it harder for negative thoughts and feelings to take form or hold merit. Affirmations also help to eliminate the tendency to ruminate or linger on negative feelings while allowing you to acknowledge the things that have prevented your happiness. In turn, this can increase your self-awareness of what you need and desire, making it easier for you to surround yourself with people and things that support your wants.
Using affirmations also forces you to keep in mind how important the small things are, the things that we tend to take for granted. Some of those small things are actually a large part of certain affirmations. Expressing gratitude for the small things can improve your mood and your satisfaction with life.
Daily affirmations have been shown to be beneficial to physical health as well as emotional health. In fact, positive affirmations have been used in interventions that led people to increase their physical behavior, like exercise. When incorporated into meditation, positive affirmations have a positive impact on sleep. This is especially true for those suffering from anxiety and depression. While positive affirmations are not a cure for either condition, they can offer a sense of hopefulness in moments of darkness and despair.
All of the benefits of positive affirmations can contribute to an overall more positive mood which, studies have shown, leads to better cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of stroke, heart attacks, and other cardiac events. Daily positive affirmations also lessen the likelihood of dismissing health concerns and instead encourage you to respond with positive changes, like eating healthier or moving your body in a way that feels good to you.
How to use affirmations
Here are some tips for using affirmations in your daily life:
- Be consistent. Being able to implement positive affirmations as a part of your daily lifestyle can feel easier said than done, but your commitment to the practice can go a long way if you try. Make them a regular part of your day-to-day routine, consistently practicing at the same time and repeating them the same number of times each day.
- Involve your loved ones. If you find yourself having a hard time providing positivity for yourself, try reaching out to a supportive person in your life! Support can come from a friend, family member, teacher, counselor etc. Having support is a great opportunity to grow mentally and physically.
- Start slow. If you are having difficulty starting this process, try repeating one affirmation a day and then increasing as the days go by. The first step can be the hardest, but as previously stated, you’ll be heading forward!
- Combine your affirmations with an action. While the affirmations can boost your motivation and confidence, you still need to take some action. For instance, if you use an affirmation such as “I can remain calm even when I feel annoyed,” you might want to take the action of deep breathing exercises when you start to feel frustrated or angry. Affirmations are meant to be a step toward making a change, not the change itself.
- Create your own affirmations, based on what will help you most. Don’t settle for generic affirmations and make yours as specific as possible.
- Set your affirmations in the present. This will remind you of what you can do right now, as opposed to what happened in the past or what can happen in the future. While having goals is important, affirmations are meant to help you change long-standing patterns, which you can do in the moment.
- Get personal and specific. Affirmations should be based on what real, specific traits you want to change. That is where they’ll have the most benefit for you.
- Be patient with yourself. It may take some time before you see changes in the way that you’re feeling, but that doesn’t mean your hard work isn’t paying off.