Affirmations and How They Work: Your 101 Affirmation Guide
There’s an uncomfortable space we find ourselves trapped in when we feel a disconnect between who we are and who we want to be. And more often than not, it happens because we lack confidence in ourselves and our abilities to be able to bridge the gap.
And it’s in this gap that affirmations can help us get from one place to the other. Because most of us have the skills necessary to reach our goals (or the capacity to learn them), but we lack the self-belief to push through with them. And when we inevitably misstep on our journey (because failure is an integral part of success), we blame ourselves and deem ourselves unworthy.
We don’t realise that we can be our own worst bullies sometimes with the way we talk to ourselves, instead believing that if you think something about yourself, it must be true. So if you can think negatively about yourself, why can’t you think positively too and become your own biggest cheerleader?
As Buddha once said:
“What you think you become. What you feel you attract. What you imagine, you create.”
So, in this comprehensive guide, we will show you how you can harness the scientifically proven benefits of affirmations to increase your self-confidence and boldly go after the life you want.
What are affirmations?
Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself that challenge negative self-beliefs and work to stop self-sabotaging negative thoughts from impacting your self-esteem.
By creating positive statements about yourself, you affirm your worthiness and ability to do the things you want to do. In addition, it serves as a direct contradiction to the often negative self-talk we engage in, especially if you suffer from mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression.
Affirmations can be made about any aspect of your life, or they can be general statements that boost your self-esteem. There’s really no wrong way to do it.
The psychology of affirmations
The idea of repeating positive statements to yourself might sound more spiritual or ideological than scientific, but there are, in fact, strong scientific foundations that explain why they work.
Negative self-talk occurs when we criticise and beat ourselves up, convincing ourselves that we aren’t good enough either as a person or as it relates to certain aspects of life.
For the sake of understanding how negative self-talk impacts us, let’s refer to that negative, destructive voice as Chad (sorry to any Chads out there!). Let’s imagine you are at work and you mess up a piece of work. It’s normal; it happens. We all make mistakes. However, many of us will experience Chad telling us that we messed up because we are stupid and we are incapable of ever getting anything right. We should be ashamed of ourselves because we are not good enough and we don’t deserve this job. The only reason they took us on is that the boss took pity on us and didn’t realise how rubbish we really are.
Does this narrative from Chad sound familiar to you? If so, affirmations are a great way to shut Chad up.
Having that negative self-talk in your head telling you you’re not good enough and blowing small mistakes into catastrophic events that prove how rubbish you are is a sure-fire way to lose any self-confidence you might have. And it’s categorically not true.
In fact, if you stopped to analyse the negative talk Chad is spouting at you, you’ll see that there is no evidence to back up his claims.
If we look at the work example above, when you take a step back, you’ll realise that actually, you do have the qualifications for the job, and yes, maybe you made a mistake in this project, but the last ten projects you did were successful, so you know you can do the job well.
Over time, listening and internalising that negative self-talk can lead to increased competitive anxiety, meaning we become more anxious about our ability to achieve when performing tasks because we automatically assume we aren’t good enough to do a good job.
With that said, if we are willing to believe the negative thoughts about ourselves, why can’t we learn to believe the positive instead?
The more we repeat thoughts about ourselves, the more we believe them. But, of course, it is true of negative thoughts, and it is true of positive statements too.
And it’s important to note that the way we talk to ourselves directly impacts our ability to perform tasks well.
Is there a link between affirmations and the law of attraction?
When you hear about affirmations in modern media, you may find them linked to the concept of the law of attraction and manifestations.
While the two have similarities, they are different, as one is based on spirituality, whereas the other is based on cognitive psychology. But it is interesting to explore the intersection where these two meet.
The law of attraction refers to the philosophy that the energy and thoughts you put out into the world will manifest your circumstances. For example, if you believe you are going to get your dream job and act accordingly, you’ll release that energy into the world, and the universe will reward you with the job best suited to you. On the other hand, if you constantly act as if you aren’t worthy of the job, the universe will recognise your energy, and you won't get the jobs you want.
Now, we know there are a lot of socio-political reasons that can affect the opportunities that come our way, so it would be unfair to suggest one can simply manifest their dreams at will.
But this is where the intersectionality of affirmations and the law of attraction gets interesting.
The Roman philosopher, Seneca, stated: “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.”
That is, in order to succeed in the areas of life we want, we need to prepare ourselves for when such opportunities arise. And that is where positive affirmations can play an integral part.
When we have recurring negative self-talk, we can bully ourselves down to the point of procrastination and avoidance behaviours. For example, imagine you are trying to get good at coding so that you can build a career as a website developer. You might start enthusiastically, but every time the code doesn’t work, you berate yourself and tell yourself you will never be good enough, so you might as well quit. In this scenario, you’re unlikely to continue trying. So when you eventually see your dream job open at a big tech company like Google or Microsoft, you won’t be prepared because you gave up due to your negative self-talk.
However, suppose you use affirmations to remind yourself that you are good enough and to be kind to yourself during the learning process. In that case, you are much more likely to stick with your goals, meaning that when an opportunity comes your way, you are much better prepared to answer its call.
The benefits of using affirmations
We have discussed how affirmations can help motivate you to keep on track with your goals, but the benefits are much further reaching.
Here are the benefits of adding affirmations into your life.
Affirmations reduce defensive responses
When we feel our core values being threatened or criticised, it’s a normal human response to become defensive about ourselves to try and preserve our self-view.
When consistent negative talk is involved, it usually means that there are intrinsic self-beliefs about perfectionism, success, and failure. So when someone tells you that a piece of work you did is wrong, you may internalise it as the person telling you, “you are stupid and a failure.”
Understandably, you will want to defend yourself against such onslaughts, but that’s not what the person is actually saying, and there is no reason to be defensive.
When you use affirmations to remind yourself of your positive attributes, you will be able to separate your self and core values from isolated incidents, causing you to feel less attacked, and in turn, act less defensively to criticism.
Affirmations can improve body image
There are some worrying statistics related to body image in the U.K. According to a 2019 YouGov survey, 20% of adults feel shame and disgust about their body. In addition, 35% of adults feel anxiety or depression over the way their body looks, and 20% think that advertising and social media causes them to feel uncomfortable in their own skin. But worst of all, 13% of those surveyed reported having suicidal thoughts because they were unhappy with the way their body looks.
By using affirmations, you repeat positive statements about your body that, over time, can reframe the negative feelings you have surrounding your body image. That’s because most body image issues start with a negative relationship with your body image that is reflected in the way you talk to yourself.
Affirmations can aid in addiction recovery
Recovering from addiction can be very difficult. Every day can feel like an uphill struggle, with fears you might “fall off the wagon” at any point.
Once again, the way you talk to yourself can dramatically change how you approach sobriety and recovery. When you tell yourself you might slip up or you aren’t able to stop yourself from indulging in your addiction, you create a lot of self-doubt.
This happens because addiction leaves you feeling out of control of your own body and behaviours.
That is why researchers have found that, alongside other interventions, using positive affirmations can help people stay on the road to recovery. It helps remind people that they have the strength to control their actions when they are feeling tempted.
Affirmations improve mental wellbeing
When negative talk because a consistent occurrence, your self-esteem takes a huge hit. So, unsurprisingly, doing the opposite (positive self-talk) will help to improve your self-esteem. In doing so, your overall mental wellbeing improves as you find yourself more capable of going after your goals, as well as having a more positive sense of self.
Affirmations can empower people to seek therapy when necessary
Deciding to seek therapy for mental health issues can be a daunting prospect. Many of us grew up in a time when people who have therapy were looked down on, and people were meant to just “get over it.”
Fortunately, we now live in a society that sees the benefits of therapy and, in many cases, encourages it. But that doesn’t heal the scars of learned beliefs from childhood.
By using positive affirmations just before you seek treatment, you will be able to muster the courage to ask for therapy and help when you need it.
Affirmations can improve academic achievement
Another scar a lot of us carry from childhood stems from our school experience. Schools are set up in such a way that you are encouraged to be the best. Not the best you can be, but the absolute best in the class.
Exam results are based on a national percentile chart, meaning the top x per cent gets an A*, the next x per cent receives an A, and so on. So rather than being in competition with yourself, you are in competition ultimately with the rest of the country.
As a result, many people, especially millennials and gen z, are plagued with negative self-talk stemming from the perfectionism built up through childhood.
At its worst, perfectionism can cause burnout, procrastination, and avoidance behaviours.
When children are encouraged to engage in positive self-talk, researchers have found that their academic achievements improve.
How to pinpoint where you need affirmations in your life
Now that we know how much of a positive difference using affirmations can make in your life, you might be wondering how and where you would benefit from adding this into your life.
Everyone can benefit from general positive affirmations that boost their self-confidence and self-esteem. Still, some people may also like to use more specific affirmations to target areas of their life they want to improve.
An excellent way to see which areas of your life need improvement is to use a tool called “the Wheel of Life.”
First designed in the 1960s by Paul J Meyer, this chart covers ten different aspects of your life and ranks them from one to ten.
Nowadays, there are multiple variations of the chart, often with fewer life categories and different names.
To use this chart, you simply take each category and plot how well you think that aspect of your life is going from one to ten (one being closest to the middle, ten being the outer edge of the circle).
When you connect the dots, you’ll see a visual representation of where things are going well and where they could be going better. The goal is to have all aspects of your life in harmony and balanced at roughly the same level.
Once you have discovered the areas of your life you would like to improve on, you can start to think about bringing positive affirmations in to help.
How to practice your affirmations
The brilliant thing about practising affirmations is that there are a lot of ways to do so, meaning you are guaranteed to find a method that works for you.
Mindfulness meditation refers to the practice of using meditation as a way to keep your focus present. Most mindfulness meditation involves being aware of your body sensations and the things around you (sounds, smells, etc.).
Once you are in a mindful state, you can repeat positive affirmations to yourself silently as part of your practice as a way of reminding yourself to keep perspective and be present in the way you talk to yourself, acknowledging that when we let our emotions overrun our mind, we can speak negatively to ourselves out of anger.
Yoga is the active cousin of mindfulness meditation. Derived from ancient spiritual practices in India over 5000 years ago, yoga recently gained popularity in the western world over the past century.
Yoga is an exercise in which you hold body stretches while you focus your attention on your body, keeping your mind in the present while letting thoughts simply drift by without interacting with them.
It is a great opportunity to connect your mind and body without having to stay still, so you can burn off some nervous energy as you find peace in your mind and body. And many teachers will encourage you to take advantage of the quiet moments during stretches to repeat your intentions to yourself silently.
Instead of repeating intentions, though, you can use the time to reflect on your affirmations.
Journaling is the perfect way to interact with your thoughts and inner monologue. It can be hard to change your thoughts when they are trapped in your mind, so finding an outside medium such as a notebook ensures you are able to internalise your affirmations fully.
The best way to use your journal for affirmations is to choose a short list of three to five affirmations that you write down each day. Over time, it will become second nature for these affirmations to be at the forefront of your mind, particularly in the times before you journal.
Although it can be done at any time, starting your day off by affirmation journaling will help put you in the right mindset of the day, so you are ready to go out and capture your dreams.
Mirror healing can be very daunting to begin with, but it yields some of the best affirmation results of the four practices listed.
In mirror healing, you look yourself in the eye in the mirror and repeat the affirmations to yourself out loud, as if you are speaking to yourself. This action is repeated daily.
It can be uncomfortable to begin with as looking at yourself means you have nowhere to hide – which, if you are suffering from low self-esteem, may feel unpleasant. But the beauty of not being to hide away is that it forces you to confront your negative self-talk and be kinder to yourself. You would likely never insult anyone to their face, and when you are faced with your own, you’ll find it hard to do so as well.
And when you start talking kindly to yourself while maintaining eye contact, you become more comfortable with yourself and who you are as a person.
How to create an affirmation habit
As we have already established, affirmations need to be consistently repeated on a daily basis to tap into the benefits. The best way to do this is to create a habit of practising your affirmations.
So the first thing you will need to do is be honest about how much time you have to dedicate to this practice and how likely you are to remember to do it. The less time you have available, or the more tentative you feel, the smaller you should start.
That means choosing just one or two affirmations to repeat every day until you get more used to it. And the great thing about using only one or two affirmations is it will only take you one minute to complete each day!
The second thing you want to do is work out your affirmation schedule. An essential part of building any habit is to prioritise it by scheduling it into your daily routine just as you would any other appointment.
A great way to schedule a habit to make it stick is by attaching it to another daily routine. For example, you could plan your affirmation practice for after you brush your teeth, once you have finished brewing your morning coffee, or when you go to lunch at work.
This technique works by using an already established habit to act as a cue for your new habit, making it more likely you stick with it.
In terms of the best time to schedule your affirmation practice, you can do it at any time during the day, so it’s up to you when is easiest. However, you might find that you get the best results if you do it in the morning as you will be starting your day on a positive note which will have a knock-on effect on the rest of the day.
Finally, you want to find a way to keep yourself accountable to your new habit so that you don’t forget or give up. There are a few ways you could do this.
You can ask a friend to message you at a specific time every day to check in and make sure you have done your affirmations for the day. You could also set an alarm reminder to ensure you don’t forget about your practice. Finally, you could use an accountability app that asks you to confirm you have performed your habit.
Remember that it can take a long time to create a lasting habit. Experts estimate that it takes the average person three to six months to establish a new habit. So be kind to yourself on your journey. And if you miss a day or two, don’t worry about it; just continue as usual the next day. Missing a couple of days won’t affect your habit in the long run, but giving up because you didn’t do it perfectly certainly will!
How to create an affirmation environment
Affirmation practices are incredibly personal, and as such, creating the right environment can really help you feel comfortable as you repeat your positive phrases.
You’ll want to find a quiet place where you can be alone (unless you plan to attend meditation or yoga practices and do your affirmation repetition there). A calm place will allow you to focus on your mind and internalise every word of the affirmation so that you understand and believe every single word you are saying.
You’ll also want to make sure you are in a comfortable position as you practice. You can sit on a yoga mat, find a comfy chair, sit on your bed, or stand – whatever feels best for you. If you plan to do yoga with your affirmations, find a yoga mat that is comfortable, and you enjoy working on – it will help you embrace the positive mentality you are cultivating with your affirmations.
Ambience adds to any practice and helps to really ground you. Remember the mindfulness practice we talked about earlier where you use your senses to stay focused on the present? Why not add your favourite candle and light it as you repeat your affirmations?
Not only will this keep you more present as you repeat your affirmations, but you may find that you eventually link the scent to your affirmations, and the mere smell of the candle can trigger positive self-talk through the affirmations you have been dedicating your time to?
Finally, you want to make sure that any equipment you need for your affirmation sessions is easily accessible. If you are doing yoga, make sure you know where your mat is. If you are journaling, keep your favourite journal and pen in a prominent place that will remind you to use them daily. And if you are doing mirror healing, you will need to make sure you set your affirmation environment around a mirror in your house.
Apps to help you with your affirmation practice
Technology has come so far over the past few decades. What was once exclusively an analogue practice can now be enhanced with the use of apps to get the most out of your affirmation practice.
I am… is an app that pushes affirmations through to your phone throughout the day to keep you in a positive mindset. You can program the app to send you general affirmations or choose the life areas you want to focus on. You can also choose the timings and frequency of each notification so you can get the most out of your app.
YouTube is full of fantastic yoga and guided mindfulness meditation videos that you can easily follow so you can practice your affirmations at home.
Try a few different ones before you decide, as every person’s video has a different style that may work with or against your vibes.
Headspace is arguably the most well-known mindfulness app in the U.K., and with an extensive library of meditations, including a variety of affirmation-based sessions, you’re sure to find the audio guide that works for you.
Fabulous is an all-encompassing mental wellness app that aims to support you in creating new habits to level up your life and reach your goals.
Using this app, you can find the tools you need to keep yourself accountable to your affirmation goals so that you can make this helpful practice a solid habit in your daily life.
It can be difficult to get started and find affirmations that fit your life and goals, so we’ve made it easy for you by providing a list of affirmation examples broken down into ten different topics.
Feel free to use them or adapt them to fit your needs.
I am me, and being me is a good thing to be
It’s ok to make mistakes; I am still learning
I am in charge of my life
I do not have to prove myself to anybody
My only competition is me
I am enough
I am capable
I am confident
I let go of what I cannot change and do my best with what I can
I am doing my best, and that is all I can ask of myself
I love myself enough to push through
Today will be a good day
I have time to do the things I love
I am a priority in my own life
I am on my side
Affirmations for relationships
I am capable of showing love to others
I attract positive people and experiences into my life
I come from the loving place in my heart, and I know love opens all doors
I forgive others that made mistakes today. We are all human
My friends like me for who I am
I am grateful for my loved ones…I am so loved
I attract only healthy and loving people into my life
I am magnetic and irresistible to my partner
I feel loved, cherished, and secure in my relationships
I feel free to draw boundaries in my relationships
Affirmations for financial health
I am allowed to have money
I am grateful for all the money present in my life
I set financial goals because I know I can achieve them
I am letting go of all my worries surrounding money
I am putting my life in order and accept all the good that is coming into my life
Affirmations for health
My body is stronger than I think
I am healing
I am physically active
I choose to eat food that provides me nutrition, so I can have the energy to live my life
I respect my body
My body is happy, healthy, and filled with light and joy
I will take my health seriously and treat my body with respect
My body gets healthier and healthier each day
I am grateful for my health, strength, and vitality
My body is powerful and knows how to heal itself
Affirmations for body image
There is nothing wrong with my body
I choose to love myself and my body today
I will not compare my body to anyone else
I deserve to be appreciated
My body allows me to do all the things I love
I love my body, imperfections and all
I am at home in my body
I am more than a number on the scale
I choose to be kind to my body
I am beautiful inside and out
Affirmations for gratitude
I am grateful for the opportunities in my life
I am thankful for all that I have
I am grateful for where I am at and excited for where I am going
I am grateful for the simple and profound joys of the day
I am grateful for my home
I am grateful to have access to nutritious food and clean water
Affirmations for work and career
I am a hard worker
I always try my best, even when I am finding things difficult
My hard work will pay off, and my passion will bring me success
I am proud of myself and all I have accomplished
Today I will learn and grow
I will believe in myself and my abilities
I refuse to give up because I haven’t tried all possible ways yet
I am working hard towards my goals
Every career setback or roadblock helps me to grow more as a person
I accept that done is better than perfect
Affirmations for happiness and joy
I am allowed to be happy
I have everything I need to be happy in my life right now
I will not compare my life to strangers on the internet
I am allowed to feel good at the end of the day
I am excited about today
I am worthy of happiness
I choose to be happy and love myself today
Affirmations for love
I am worthy of love
I am glowing with love from the inside out
I forgive everyone who has ever hurt me. I am free
The greatest gift I can give myself is unconditional love
I am always surrounded by love and happiness
I deserve to be loved, cared for, and respected
Love starts with me
I view others with love and kindness
Loving myself allows me to love others
I am willing to step outside my comfort zone
Affirmations for anxiety and depression
This is temporary
I am in control of my thoughts
I can overcome my fear of anything and everything and live life courageously
My anxiety does not control me
I release my negative thoughts to create space for positive thinking and optimism
I choose calm, and I choose peace
I release the anxieties and stress of the day
I let go of the past and the future. I focus on the present moment
I have the ability to turn the feeling of overwhelm into the feeling of excitement
I can take things one step at a time
I am unaffected by the judgement of others
I release self-doubt and embrace my bravest self
Final thoughts on using affirmations
Negative self-talk is a quick way of destroying your self-esteem and ruining your dreams before you’ve even had a proper chance to go for them. For this reason, we need to be careful about how we talk to ourselves because what we say to ourselves turns into beliefs.
By using affirmations daily, you can start to deconstruct the destructive negative beliefs that you have cultivated about yourself in favour of a kinder approach that recognises all the things that make you great.
And once you are able to talk kindly to yourself and understand the power you hold, you’ll be able to access all the benefits that come with it, such as improved mental wellbeing, better academic achievement, an improved relationship with your body image, and better preparedness for success when the opportunity arises.
And with so many ways to practice and such a small time commitment, there is really no reason not to explore the world of affirmations and see how the positive self-talk impacts your life.
Which areas of your life do you hope to improve with affirmations?
Let us know in the comments below; we love hearing your stories!