Repeating positive affirmations is a self-help technique intended to challenge negative, unavailing thoughts and promote self-confidence. Does this technique work, though? And Is it backed up by science?
In short, yes, positive affirmations do work and are backed up by science. Studies prove that positive affirmations help activate parts of the brain that are associated with self-related processing and reward. The same studies also indicate that positive affirmations can help build or restore self-competence.
In this post, we cover everything you need to know about positive daily affirmations, from what they are and the science/research behind them to their most notable benefits. So, stick around to find out.
The Basic Definition of Positive Daily Affirmations
The concept of self-affirmation isn’t by any means complex or far-fetched. Positive affirmations are statements or phrases that, when repeated daily, can help challenge negative thoughts and boost self-confidence.
Depending on the statements or phrases you choose to repeat daily, positive affirmations can help you achieve many self-help goals. For example, one person may use positive affirmations for self-motivation, whereas another person may use them to boost their self-esteem.
Positive affirmations are especially beneficial for people who struggle with negative, self-deprecating thoughts and feelings, helping them address and replace such patterns with more positive, adaptive narratives.
Examples of positive daily affirmations:
- I’m going to get the promotion I deserve.
- My needs matter, and I’m not going to deny them.
- There’s no one better to be than myself.
- I’m self-confident and comfortable in my own skin.
- I forgive myself for my past mistakes.
- I’m happy and grateful for the things I have.
- All of my problems surely have solutions.
How Positive Daily Affirmations Work
To understand how positive affirmations work and how you can make the most of them, we have to familiarise you with neuroplasticity, which is the ability to rewire the brain.
Despite being one of the most sophisticated and complex structures in the known universe, the human brain can get a little mixed up on the difference between reality and imagination. This very loophole serves as the basis of self-affirmation.
To elaborate, when you repeat affirming statements daily, you’re helping your brain create a mental image of the goal you’re trying to achieve or the version of yourself you’re aspiring to become.
And when this mental image is created, it activates the parts of the brain that’d be activated if you were to experience the goal you’re trying to achieve in real life.
So, simply put, when you repeat positive affirming statements, you’re encouraging your brain to accept your affirmations as fact. This, in turn, prepares you to take proper action towards achieving your goal.
You’re probably wondering, “Why is the word ‘action’ in bold?” That’s because, in order for positive affirmations to work, you have to take action towards your goal. It’s unreasonable to think you can change aspects of your life by simply repeating a few words. Affirming statements should be viewed as one step towards change, not the actual change itself.
Let’s put all of this into perspective using an example, shall we? Assume you’re a private person that doesn’t like to answer personal questions. When asked such questions, you find yourself annoyed and unable to address the situation without coming across as rude.
So, what you can do in this situation is repeat a positive affirmation like, “I have the power to remain calm and collected when I feel irritated or annoyed”.
By repeating the affirmation mentioned above, you might start getting into the habit of taking deep breaths into your diaphragm, which can have a notable calming effect. You might also find yourself practicing grounding exercises. Accordingly, you have to combine affirming statements with practical action to make the most out of daily positive affirmations.
We’ve already referred to neuroplasticity to shed light on the fact that positive affirmations have everything to do with science and nothing to do with magic, but is that all there’s to it as far as science is concerned? What does psychology have to say about positive affirmation?
In the 1980s, Claude Steele, social psychologist and emeritus professor at Stanford University, popularised self-affirmation theory, propelling it to become a well-studied theory in the research sector of social psychology.
Simply put, self-affirmation theory is a psychological theory that sheds light on how people adapt to experiences and information that pose a threat to their self-concept or self-identity. Based on self-affirmation theory, we’re able to maintain self-integrity, which is correlated to the concept of self-efficacy, by affirming our core values and beliefs in a positive manner.
And self-efficacy is basically our perceived ability to experience a threat to our self-concept without compromising our core values or beliefs. In other words, it’s the perceived ability to respond flexibly and uncompromisingly to experiences or information that threaten our self-concept.
By practicing self-affirmation, we help establish a global narrative about our identity. And we must define ourselves, within the context of the global narrative we’ve established, as moral and flexible.
Also, this enables us to view concepts like success and happiness in many different lights, which, in turn, grants us the ability to adapt to other circumstances more efficiently.
Furthermore, according to self-affirmation theory, a person shouldn’t have to strive for perfection or excellence to maintain their identity. Instead, what they should do is strive for competence in areas of life that are of value to them.
And the last piece of the self-affirmation theory puzzle has to do with maintaining self-integrity. It’s acting in ways that are consistent with our values and beliefs, a principle that merits praise and acknowledgment.
Research Behind Self-Affirmation
Having been popularised, self-affirmation theory has garnered a lot of attention from neuroscientists, which has led them to conduct studies and research to see whether or not self-affirmation affects brain activity.
With the aid of MRI evidence, one study indicates that the neural pathways in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex increase when a person practices self-affirmation. This cortex is the part of the human brain associated with self-related information processing and positive valuation.
Another study indicates that self-affirmation can alter the brain’s response to threatening information, viewing such information as self-relevant and valuable. Clearly, self-affirmation isn’t an unfounded new-age practice.
Benefits of Positive Affirmations
Repeating self-affirming statements and phrases can offer you significant benefits, but you need to consider that action is vital. Without action, affirmations are nothing more than words. Here are some of the benefits of positive affirmations:
- Reduced negative thoughts: Most of your thoughts are subconscious, and so by practicing positive affirmations, you start to become more in tune with your thoughts and feelings. This grants you the power to nip negative thought patterns in the bud.
- Reduced health-deteriorating stress: According to the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the practice of self-affirmation can help reduce stress and broaden your perspective on self-threat.
- Increased happiness: Practicing self-affirmation helps you become more aware of the things that impair your sense of happiness. This acquired awareness, in turn, enables you to surround yourself with the things that bring you joy.
- Increased gratefulness: The small things in life often go unnoticed amidst the day-to-day hustle and bustle. Practicing self-affirmation can help you focus on and be grateful for the small things you tend to take for granted.
- Enhanced physical activity: According to the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, self-affirmation can increase physical behavior, especially in the context of positive psychology interventions.
- Reinforced positive thinking: Practicing self-affirmation can positively influence the way you think and your overall outlook on life. And studies show that optimism reduces the risk of cardiovascular events, such as strokes and heart attacks.
- Reduced resistance: An individual who practices self-affirmation on a daily basis isn’t likely to perceive threatening information or messages with resistance. Instead, they’ll respond with the intention to change for the better.
How to Make the Most of Self-Affirmation
The effectiveness of positive affirmations really boils down to how you use them. That said, here are a few tips that can help you make the most out of this brilliant self-help practice.
Create Your Own Affirmations
Affirmations can be found everywhere now; on social media, self-help blogs, Pinterest pictures, and even t-shirts. While it’s okay to use some of the stock affirmations you’ve read somewhere, it’s much better to create your positive affirmations. This way, you can tailor them to your experience and goals.
And there are no limits as far as the things you can tailor your positive affirmations to. For instance, one person may choose to create positive affirmations tailored to core values, such as honesty and kindness. But another person may decide to devote their affirmations to career goals.
Keep Your Affirmations Realistic
As we’ve stated previously, you can’t make changes by self-affirmation alone; action must be part of the equation. With that in mind, it’s essential to tailor your affirmations too realistic, achievable goals.
Shooting for the stars isn’t the way to go when trying self-affirmation. Yes, change is always possible no matter what you’re trying to achieve, but then again, change is tied to action.
If you aim for something that isn’t easily achievable or if your affirming statements are tailored to something that you don’t genuinely accept as true, the practice of self-affirmation won’t work.
Set Things in the Present
When practicing self-affirmation, it’s necessary to carry out the practice as if you’ve already achieved the goal to which your affirmations are tailored. This is what we mean by setting things in the present.
Why is setting things in the present important? It relates to neuroplasticity, which we’ve highlighted earlier. You’re trying to trick your brain into believing that the goal you’re trying to achieve has already been achieved.
Also, remember that the purpose of practicing self-affirmation is to boost your confidence and your belief in what you can do in this very moment, not in the future.
Practice Self-Affirmation Daily
Self-affirmation doesn’t work unless it’s practiced regularly, so you should strive to make it a habit. When you’re starting out, try repeating your affirmations after you wake up and before you go to bed. 3-5 minutes should be enough.
If possible, ask a loved one to repeat your affirmations with you. This will boost your self-confidence and reinforce the bond you have with them.
Lastly, it’d be best if you were patient with your practice. Expecting change after repeating your positive affirmations a few times isn’t realistic. Instead, stick with the practice, and give it time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Affirmations Help With Depression and Anxiety?
Self-affirmation can undoubtedly help with depression and anxiety through cognitive restructuring, but the practice isn’t a cure or an alternative to clinical treatment.
Do Positive Affirmations Improve Sleep Quality?
Positive affirmations can indirectly improve the quality of your sleep by relieving anxiety and stress. If you want to double down on sleep-related benefits, try incorporating your positive affirmations into meditation.
Do I Have to Repeat My Affirmations Every Day?
There aren’t any hard rules that constitute how often you should repeat your affirmations. However, it’s best to repeat your affirmations daily to boost the “brain rewiring” process.
Ultimately, the practice of self-affirmation has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with science. By repeating positive affirmations on a daily basis, you’re rewiring your brain and creating a mental image of what you’re trying to achieve or become. This, in turn, propels you to take action in the right direction.
Positive daily affirmations offer many benefits, from reduced negative thoughts and stress to increased happiness and positivity. So, be patient and consistent with the practice, and you’ll start noticing results sooner than expected!