If you’re on TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms, chances are that you’ve come across videos and posts raving about the power of positive affirmations. Many self-help books also swear by this practice. But what are positive affirmations, exactly? As simple as it sounds, positive affirmations are positive statements and phrases that you can recite to ward off unhelpful and negative thoughts. Read this article to find out how powerful positive affirmations are, according to psychology.
The Self-Affirmation Theory
Positive affirmations are no magic, unlike many people believe. Incorporating them into your daily practice is scientifically proven to make long-term and enduring changes to your thoughts and feelings. The Self-Affirmation Theory is among the most prominent psychological theories behind this practice. It suggests that an individual’s sense of self-integrity can be maintained by using positive affirmations to reinforce their beliefs.
In essence, our sense of self-integrity is associated with our overall self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a person’s perception of their ability to be in control of moral outcomes. It also has to do with the ability to be flexible and respond mindfully when something threatens our self-concept. Safeguarding our self-integrity is an operation of our self-protection instinct against these threats.
The development of the Self-Affirmation Theory by Claude Steele in 1988 has inspired scientists to conduct neuroscientific research to investigate the validity of the theory. According to PositivePsychology.com, MRI evidence reveals that when people partake in self-affirmation activities, specific neural pathways increase. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is associated with positive valuation and the processing of information that is related to oneself, is more active when our personal values are considered.
The source also references another study that reveals that practicing self-affirmation allows us to perceive information that we would otherwise view as threatening, as rather valuable, and self-relevant. This is perhaps because positive affirmations can boost a person’s confidence and make them sure of their abilities. So instead of feeling threatened by constructive criticism or similar comments, the individual views it as a learning opportunity.
The Benefits of Positive Affirmations
Now that we’ve covered the theories and pieces of evidence that support the validity and impact of positive affirmations, let’s look into the benefits of positive affirmations.
They Influence Your Subconscious Mind
One of the most important benefits that positive affirmations have to offer is that they allow you to influence your subconscious mind, allowing you to explore new mindsets, beliefs, and thought patterns. According to the team of Registered Psychologists from Virtuous Circle Counselling, reciting daily positive affirmations can help you effectively get rid of negative thoughts and replace them with more positive thought patterns. They train you to adopt a brighter and more optimistic view of life.
They Can Be Used In Numerous Ways
There is no limit to how you can use positive affirmations. You can incorporate them into your daily practice in numerous ways. For instance, you can write them down before you go to bed, include them in your daily meditation practice, repeat them as you get ready in the morning, or even listen to songs or podcasts with positive affirmations on them. You will find many podcasts and YouTube channels dedicated to self-affirmations.
The great thing about positive affirmations is that you can use them to influence any aspect of your life. They can help you feel more appreciative and gratuitous, or even help you concentrate on certain goals. You can construct positive affirmations that would help you feel more collected under pressure and persist through rough patches in life.
They Can Relieve Anxiety
Today’s world is incredibly fast-paced, leaving us constantly on edge. Our subconscious minds are always thinking about our families, jobs, tasks, and numerous other things, especially during bedtime. It makes it very hard to fall asleep, and even when we finally doze off, all this overthinking results in bad quality of sleep. We are often left very anxious, jumpy, and tired. Practicing positive self-affirmations regularly, especially before you go to bed, can help keep you relaxed and improve the quality of your sleep. This will help improve various aspects of your life.
Creating Effective Affirmations
You can create effective positive affirmations in the following 5 steps:
- Identify the Negatives
To determine the type of affirmations you need to come up with, you must first make a list of all the things you consider negative. These could be things about yourself or your personality, a certain situation or aspect of life, or how you approach life. These could be things that you’ve concluded on your own or external comments that you held onto. Take note of any general characteristics, as well. Notice if there’s any tension in any part of your body and try to release it. We’ll come back to this in step 4.
- Translate the Negatives to Positive Affirmations
Here, you need to express the negative things that you came up with as their opposite features. For instance, if one of the negative features is that you take criticism to heart, you can write it up as “I don’t hold onto external criticism, as I feel more confident and empowered.” Make sure to select words that feel believable. Rank the positive words and decide if you’re ready to make major or small changes. If you want your affirmations to work, you have to believe them.
- Repeat Regularly
Many people like writing down their affirmations because it helps them internalize them. You can also recite them for five minutes. Try to do that at least three times a day. It helps to do that while doing a repetitive task, like washing the dishes, or while looking at yourself in the mirror and observing your facial expressions.
- Anchor Them Into Your Body
Place your hand on the part of your body that felt tense as you wrote the negative aspects. Say positive affirmations and keep your hand on that area as you breathe. Imagine the exaltation and the placement of your hand as a soothing gesture that helps release the pent-up tension.
- External Affirmations
You can ask someone you trust and feel comfortable around to recite your affirmations to you. If you feel uncomfortable, you can record yourself saying them. Play the audio recording and listen to it.
Positive affirmations can be used for various reasons, including promoting self-love, challenging negative self or body image, boosting self-esteem, or fueling motivation. Telling yourself how amazing and unbeatable you are can feel very unsettling at first. However, there is fairly substantial neuroscientific evidence suggesting that using positive affirmations can help you replace unhelpful subconscious thoughts and patterns with more supportive narratives.