What is an affirmation?
An affirmation is a statement or phrase that is either real or made up, that you say repeatedly to yourself to reinforce its truth. What you believe about yourself or a situations shapes your thoughts and your thoughts shape your behavior. So, if you can shift what you believe by forcing yourself to learn a new “truth”, your thoughts and behaviors will transform, as well.
Affirmations and how they work:
How affirmations work:
Your brain does not know the difference between what is real and what is fantasy. It’s easy to understand this concept by thinking about the way you interact with a movie. Sometimes you get so caught up in what is happening on screen that you empathize with the characters by crying or laughing. (Aside: The same is true for visualizations. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a imagining action and actually doing it).
Affirmations help you reframe your thought patterns through the science of neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to change structure through the process of thinking. So processes that involve thinking – such as learning a new skill – have the ability to reshape the brain’s anatomy in both positive and negative ways.
Quick example of neuroplasticity: One famous study that led to the discovery of neuroplastictiy, proved that London taxi cab drivers had a larger brain region for memory (called the hippocampus) retention due to the job’s demands on them drivers ability to remember routes.
Affirmations allow you to shift what you think about a situation more quickly. Sometimes, even if you don’t quite believe them, they can help you think positively. Or they allow you to hold a reality based thought in your focus while you have a tendency to think otherwise.
That means, if you were once told you were fat when you were young, even as an adult you may have a tendency to think “I’m fat” or “I’m going to get fat”. And those thoughts may have nothing to do with your current reality if you stand on the scale. Eitherway, you tend to see the thought before the truth and that thought shapes your actions, in this case, dieting, starving yourself, working out to an extreme etc.
Thoughts get worse when they aren’t challenged by reality. This happens especially if you don’t test the thoughts in the real world by asking others for their opinion to validate what’s in your head. Additionally, when you spend too much time alone the thoughts learn to go round and round and can become pervasive and obsessive.
Choosing or creating an affirmation:
How do you know what to say to yourself? You can choose to say a phrase that empowers you by reading something that is already written. Choose a quote and repeat it over and over. Start with five minutes a day. Use a phrase the helps you break out from your depressed mood, or make you feel a bite better. It could be as simple as: “This time in my life will pass, tomorrow will be better”. Or as personal as “I am the best Mary Kay sales woman in the region. Today I will land six sales. I will make calls I don’t want to make because I know the more conversations I have today, the closer I will get to earning a new car”
Affirmations don’t have to be true, but they do have to be believable to you and possible in reality. Therefore this would only work: “I will help millions of people” , if you believe you can actually do this. It is a stretch for some people.
How to create an affirmation that makes you feel confident, excites you, or improves your thoughts about a situation:
- Decide what it is you want most for yourself in the near future.
- Write down the reality of where you are in relation to that future. These should be FACTS only. That means they are variables that can be measured in distance time and form.
- The last one to four sentences should be positive or “I will” sentences that are completely made up but realistic and related to what you want in your future.
- Your affirmation can be as long or short as you want it to be. You should not go over 25 sentences. It should be something you can read 1 or more times a day to presence yourself to what you’d like to achieve.
“I have been living with a depressed mood for eight months. My body aches. I have less energy than I used to. I tend to sleep as much as I can through the day. I am frustrated because I’ve seen many doctors and am not getting healthier. I am taking antidepressants but I am getting sicker. I’ve gained 30lbs. I have suicidal thoughts.
I know that 90% of people who suffer from depression get better. It may take some time but and even thought I feel sick, I am taking positive actions. I am doing everything I can. I have an incredible family and friends in my support system. I am loved. I hated my body right now but I love myself.
When I get better I will save millions of people by sharing what I’ve learned. I feel bad today but tomorrow I will hope to feel better. If not tomorrow, I will likely feel better in the near future. I know what goes down must come up”.
“Today is the worst day of my life. I will keep living for my family. I have a wife and kids that need me. Tomorrow will be a better day if I continue to take healthy actions towards my recovery”
“This too shall pass”
“I am a beautiful gift to the world”
Or, start with music:
If you aren’t ready for affirmations or think it’s not for you another way to use the similar technique is to listen to a song over and over that makes you feel good. Repeatedly singing postive lyrics can make you feel confident and help you shift your mood and focus.
For example: “I am Super woman. Yes I am, Yes I am.” – from Alicia Keys song “Superwoman”
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