By now, you have more than likely heard your fair share of people employing daily, positive affirmations. Maybe it’s your best friend, your sister or your partner who can’t stop talking about how empowered they feel in their own self-worth. While you may appreciate their newly found confidence and love for themselves, all that self-talk might make you feel silly.
Still, there is a science to affirmations that make them a reliable tool to have in your mental health toolbox. According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, self-affirmations activate the brain’s reward centers. These same areas respond to pleasurable experiences, like eating your favorite food.
Positive affirmations also help create a kind of emotional buffer to painful, damaging or harmful situations. In this way, they can help build a type of resiliency to life’s stressors. And who doesn’t want to be a little more resilient?
Finally, affirmations work to make you feel good about yourself, your life and your interactions with the world around you. That hard day at work or that breakup will cause stress or mental health challenges, but daily affirming your value can help you cope with those darker days.
Here are 5 Reasons Why We Love Affirmations:
Affirmations help boost your self-confidence
When we practice positive affirmations, we begin to build a foundation for higher self-worth. Let’s say, for example, you dislike the way you interrupt people while speaking. You are aware of the habit, and you try to remedy the action as much as possible. However, when you fail, you spiral into a storm of negative self-talk that eats at your confidence and worth. It makes you feel like a horrible friend and partner.
But practicing positive affirmations reiterates your value. Interrupting someone doesn’t make you a less valuable part of a relationship. Reminding yourself, “I am a valuable friend,” gives you an anchor when you mess up.
Shifts Your Perceptions of How You Relate to Yourself and Others
Practicing positive affirmations can help you better understand yourself and others. When you start to fall in love with yourself (flaws and all), you begin to see people as who they really are—imperfect humans, just like you.
This understanding can offer two benefits: firstly, you begin to see that people are dealing with their own set of personal problems that they may or may not be handling well, leading to a higher capacity for compassion and generosity. Secondly, you start to distance yourself from the need for external validation.
Rewires Your Negative Self-talk
Affirmations also work on a neurological level to help rewire your brain. Research suggests that when we utilize healthy positive self-affirmations, we challenge our brain to renavigate what is essentially comfortable: negative self-talk. Of course, as with anything related to the brain, it is not easy to rewire our thoughts, but it is possible, and it takes time.
Johnny Crowder, founder and CEO of Cope Notes, a tool that texts daily positive affirmations, gave a very insightful TedTalk on the matter. He says, “Think of Cope Notes and any other growth resource as a cast on a broken leg. The cast doesn’t heal your leg. Your leg heals your leg. Your body is designed to heal itself. The cast, although itchy and uncomfortable, simply keeps everything in place so that your leg can heal itself correctly.”
You begin to prioritize your “now” over your “later”
Many of us fall into the pattern of “When I….” Thoughts such as “When I lose 30 lbs, I will finally wear a swimsuit on the beach.” Or “When I get that job, my parents will finally be proud of me.” But a key element to affirmations is to help you love yourself now.
Positive affirmations should be set in the present. You don’t need to wait until you fulfill something to see that you are worthy of love and acceptance. You are already worthy. Right now. At this very moment.
Affirmations such as “I accept and love who I am today” or “I am proud of every step of progress I’ve made” can create the mindset that who you are today is just as important as who you were yesterday and who you’ll be tomorrow.
Grounds You in Gratitude
When you start looking at your life through a more positive lens, you begin to see everything that brought you to this place. There are, of course, sorrowful or painful situations. But there are more than likely also beautiful, joyful experiences as well.
Affirmations help you see the bigger picture—that every experience formed who you are today. You can create affirmations that ground you in gratitude by focusing on what good is in your life today. Here is a great example, “I see my past as a journey to my present. I let go of who I was then, embrace who I am now and am grateful for all of my accomplishments along the way.”
A few tips to help your affirmations stick:
One essential thing to remember about self-affirmations is that they are a practice that requires commitment. Sure, we can tell ourselves that we will calm the negative chatter and say nice things to ourselves, but let’s be honest, we say that we are going to do a lot of things.
Instead, affirmations work best as a habit we create. Sometimes, we need a little extra help to make sure habits stick. Here are a few of our favorite ways to practice affirmations:
- Write them out on sticky notes! Stick them in places you will read every day and places you won’t, like inside your closet or shoe.
- Say them out loud in the mirror every morning. It will make you cringe at first, but you will love how wonderful it feels over time.
- Follow through with your actions. When you say to yourself, “I am a kind and valuable person,” make that a reality! Buy a stranger coffee, volunteer for a local nonprofit or compliment your neighbor.
Positive affirmations are great tools to have for coping with self-doubt that spiral into negative thoughts. Other great tools include therapy with a professional, medication for a diagnosed mental health disorder, mindfulness meditation or yoga. It takes a variety of these tools to help find mental wellness, and you may need to mix and match to find what works best for you.
Because, after all, you are a unique individual with a very unique journey. Embrace it!
If you are interested in receiving affirmations but aren’t sure where to start, Promises Behavioral Health is here to help. Sign up here for our Mental Health Awareness Month affirmations!