Positive affirmations are a useful, simple way to counteract negative self-talk and silence your inner critic.
We all have an inner monologue which colours our perceptions of ourselves and others, how we think and the way we behave.
If that voice is overly critical, derogatory or just plain mean, it can lead to negative thoughts and behaviour, pessimism and low self-esteem. And vice versa.
Affirmations can help to change your self-talk and create a more optimistic mindset and positive way of thinking about yourself.
What are positive affirmations?
Positive affirmations do exactly what they say on the tin. They are positive, encouraging statements that you repeat to yourself to challenge unhelpful and self-sabotaging thinking.
If it sounds simple, that’s because it is.
However, just because it’s simple, that doesn’t mean they’re not effective.
The words we use to talk to ourselves have tremendous power over how we think and behave and positive affirmations have been shown to help those struggling with emotional and physical pain.
But just how do they do this?
How positive affirmations work
Positive affirmations are rooted in the psychology of how our conscious and sub-conscious minds work.
They work by influencing our sub-conscious mind in order to change our thoughts and behaviour.
Our sub-conscious mind is where our convictions, aspirations and habits come from. However, it can be influenced by suggestions, for example, those made via self-talk.
Ernest Holmes, who wrote The Science of Mind, said, ‘the subjective mind takes our suggestions and tends to act upon them, no matter what the suggestion may be.’
If we’re making negative suggestions via self-talk, this will result in negative behaviour and poor well-being.
However, by making positive affirmations, the sub-conscious will automatically act on them and externalise that in more optimistic and positive habits and behaviour.
Benefits of positive affirmations – physical health
If you have an illness, saying ‘I am not ill’, won’t mean you are magically healed.
However, saying ‘I nourish and heal myself every day’ can help those suffering from physical illness to feel more hopeful and have a more positive outlook to aid recovery.
The benefits of positive affirmations were discussed by Louise Hay, writer of You can Heal Your Life. She was diagnosed with irreversible cancer that was cured within months, and went on to live to the age of 90.
She argued that self-perceptions and negative beliefs can be the cause of health problems, and that positive thinking has the power to transform lives.
There have also been scientific studies into the impact of positive affirmations on those struggling with their physical health.
A 2016 study of cognitive restructuring – the idea that affirmations introduce new and adaptive cognitive processes – found a positive correlation between spontaneous self-affirmation and feelings of hopefulness in cancer patients.
Benefits of positive affirmations – mental health
There’s also been a lot of scientific research into the effects of positive affirmations on mental and emotional health.
Often emotional pain can result from negative thoughts, behaviour and patterns, which positive affirmations aim to combat via the sub-conscious.
Studies have shown that positive affirmations can be helpful for people with:
- Low self-esteem
You can also use positive affirmations to help with specific challenges, e.g., to increase your confidence before giving a speech or presentation or to help with productivity in the workplace.
How do I write my own affirmation?
There are some rules to creating an effective affirmation.
For example, your affirmation must be authentic and realistic, it shouldn’t just be wishful thinking. Saying to yourself ‘I am wealthy’ will not automatically make you wealthy.
You need to be able to truly believe in your affirmation for it to take root in your sub-conscious and drive positive change.
So rather than saying ‘I am wealthy’, you can try saying ‘I am worthy of what I desire’.
While there are no specific rules about how often you should repeat your affirmation, ideally it should be a regular practice – at least once a day, if not more.
Your affirmation also needs to reflect your core, personal values, those things that you believe to be moral and valuable. Focus on strengths that you have or strengths that you admire.
Examples of positive affirmations include:
- I am worthy of love.
- I face any challenge with success.
- I welcome this day with positivity.
- I am, and always will be, enough.
- I am in control of my life and feelings.
What you feed your sub-conscious mind can have a huge effect on how you live your life.
For a healthy body, you need healthy food. It’s the same for your mind – you get out what you put in.
Positive affirmations will result in positive thoughts, positive behaviour and a happier, healthier you.