How many times have you seen motivational or positive affirmations on posters or mugs? Some are catchy or memorable and they’re meant to convey a positive message. Affirmations with positive messages are popular on social media and in real life. The idea is that repeating these positive statements can help you gain confidence, focus on your goals, and improve your mental health.
But can affirmations change the way you think and what you believe about yourself? Let’s take a closer look at these positive phrases and mantras and determine whether they have benefits and how you can make them work better for you.
What are Positive Affirmations?
Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself or focus on. You can also use them to build new habits and thought patterns. The idea behind affirmations is that if you say something often enough, your brain will believe it. There is evidence to support this, too. Your brain has a certain degree of “plasticity,” or the ability to form new nerve cell connections. Such plasticity allows you to learn new things and form innovative ideas.
How Positive Affirmations Work
Positive affirmations are also a form of self-hypnosis, as the words you say to yourself have a powerful influence on your mind and body. When you repeat an affirmation repeatedly, your subconscious mind begins to believe what you’re telling it. One reason affirmations work is they challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about circumstances and situations in your life.
For example, if you’re stressed or anxious about something in life, repeating an affirmation like “I’m calm” or “I’m relaxed” can help relieve those feelings. You may also want to try using affirmations that focus on gratitude or happiness since these emotions can help reduce stress.
The reason affirmations work for some people is because over 90% of our brain activity occurs at an unconscious or subconscious level. If you can ingrain new thought patterns into your brain at a subconscious level, your brain will react based on those beliefs.
How to Create and Use Affirmations
Affirmations are positive and often uplifting statements. For example, an affirmation could be something like this: “I am confident and happy in my body” (versus “I am not overweight”). The first has a more positive connotation.
Here’s how to create your own positive affirmations:
Step 1: Identify the problem. What’s going on in your life that you want to change? Is it a bad habit or an attitude? Is it something about yourself you’d like to improve?
Step 2: Start with a negative statement about yourself. This statement should be true, but also something that will inspire you to change. For example, if you’re trying to stop smoking, an affirmation might be “I have the power to stop smoking.”
Step 3: Turn this into a positive statement by adding an emotion-packed word or phrase at the end of it — for example, “I am strong” or “I am beautiful” or “I am happy.” This is called turning negatives into positives because instead of saying what isn’t true (that you’re not strong), you say what is true (that you are strong).
When you use an affirmation, don’t just recite it in your mind. Incorporate as many senses as you can into your affirmation. Visualize in your mind being happy and confident, creating a strong visual image to further reinforce what you’re trying to accomplish.
Some examples of affirmations include:
- I am a positive person that finds the good in small things.
- Today is going to be an awesome day!
- I make good choices that lead me toward success
If you struggle with doubt or low self-esteem, positive affirmations can help motivate and inspire you to feel better about yourself and your life choices. Research has shown that positive thinking can reduce stress levels — which means it might be exactly what you need if anxiety affects your well-being (or vice versa).
You can use positive affirmations to improve the following aspects of your life:
Self-image: Positive affirmations are a powerful tool for improving self-image, as they help you focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. If you tend to think negatively about yourself, focus on the things that make you unique and special. The more time you spend thinking about these things, the more comfortable you will become with yourself.
Relationships: Positive affirmations can also improve relationships by helping people express emotions calmly, without anger or hostility. People who use positive affirmations are less likely to lash out at their loved ones in times of emotional stress or frustration. Instead, they take time to think about how to communicate their feelings effectively, which won’t cause further damage between them.
Use positive affirmations as reminders throughout the day. It’s easy to get caught up in negative thoughts about yourself or the world around you throughout the day — especially if we’re dwelling on something unpleasant from earlier in the day. Use positive affirmations to break the cycle and get back on a more positive path.
How Well Do Positive Affirmations Work?
Just as no self-help book benefits everyone, and some people are not candidates for hypnosis, how well affirmations work depends on what you’re using them for, whether you’re consistent with using them, and how malleable your mind is to suggestion.
Some studies that use brain imaging show that connections between nerves in specific areas of the brain increase when people practice self-affirmation. Other studies show affirmation is beneficial for reducing the effects of stress on problem-solving. Plus, they can help break a cycle of negative thinking and self-talk.
However, affirmations won’t necessarily cure mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Affirmations may be beneficial during treatment for such conditions, but it’s best to use them in a setting of more structured counseling by a mental health professional.
All of this is to say that affirmations are a way to improve not only your mood and outlook on life but also your health. Using them takes practice, but with practice, you can harness their power for yourself. Affirmations are not the end-all, as they won’t resolve major mental health issues, but they can make you feel better. And remember, how you feel matters. So don’t be afraid to take care of yourself — you deserve it!
- “Positive Daily Affirmations: Is There Science Behind It?.” 12 Feb. 2022, positivepsychology.com/daily-affirmations/.
- “Benefits of Self-Affirmation – Carnegie Mellon University | CMU.” cmu.edu/homepage/health/2013/summer/benefits-of-self-affirmation.shtml.
- “Positive Affirmations: Too Good to Be True? – Healthline.” 01 Sept. 2020, healthline.com/health/mental-health/do-affirmations-work.
- Sherman, D. (2013). Self‐Affirmation: Understanding the Effects. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, Volume: 7 issue 11, page(s): 834-845.
- “How to Create Positive Affirmations That Really Work | Psychology Today.” 31 Dec. 2020, https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/living-forward/202012/how-create-positive-affirmations-really-work.