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Affirmations: Health Benefits and Getting Started
Affirmations: How They Can Change Your Self-Talk
The way we talk to ourselves can have a big impact on our mental health. This is where affirmations come in — short phrases you can repeat to shift negative thinking. Many people use affirmations during meditation or yoga.
According to Corey Yeager, PhD, a licensed marriage and family therapist, affirmations are an accessible tool to cope with stressful events. They’re easy to practice and can be done anytime, anywhere.
Celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Michelle Obama have shared their own affirmations, demonstrating that anyone can benefit from this practice.
Understanding Affirmations: Their Definition and Benefits
Affirmations, which are also known as positive affirmations, are phrases that can be repeated regularly to change negative thought patterns and behaviors, according to the Cleveland Clinic. These statements can be spoken aloud or to oneself and are often intended to shift thinking from negative to positive, motivate action, reduce stress, persevere through difficult times, and increase self-confidence and well-being.
Psychotherapist and sex and couples therapist Lee Phillips, LCSW, EdD, who is certified by the Integrative Sex Therapy Institute in New York City, explains that affirmations can help build and improve self-esteem and challenge negative and anxious thinking in stressful situations such as stress, depression, physical pain, and anxiety.
Dr. Yeager further explains that affirmations replace negative self-talk. For example, thinking “I’m so stupid” after making a mistake is unintentionally using a negative affirmation. However, recognizing this negative affirmation presents an opportunity to change it to a positive one. In this case, an individual might tell themselves, “I can learn from my mistakes.”
One psychological theory of self-affirmation comes from social psychologist Claude M. Steele’s research on the self in the 1980s. Steele proposed that when individuals experience thoughts or experiences that threaten the way they perceive themselves, they are motivated to restore their self-image. He suggested that people generally want to have a positive self-image, so when they encounter a threat to that image (such as someone telling them they’re not good at something), they tend to affirm their sense of self. This allows them to handle such threats in a more secure, balanced way. Affirmations can serve as a tool to help navigate these stressful situations.
What Makes You Unique?
Individuality is a fascinating aspect of humanity, and it’s something that sets us all apart from each other. Everyone has something unique about them that makes them who they are, whether it’s a physical feature, a personality trait, or a special talent. In this article, we’ll explore the concept of uniqueness and how it plays a role in our lives.
Neuroplasticity: How It Contributes to Uniqueness
Research suggests that neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt and change over time, plays a significant role in what makes us unique. According to a 2017 article in Frontiers in Psychology, affirmations can potentially benefit our mental health and general well-being by promoting neuroplasticity. When we practice positive affirmations daily, we create new pathways in our brains that can help us develop a more balanced and positive self-view. This practice can be thought of as a neuroplastic habit that contributes to our unique mental and emotional makeup.
The Benefits of Affirmations for Uniqueness
In addition to contributing to neuroplasticity, positive affirmations can also have other potential benefits for promoting a sense of uniqueness. For example:
- Affirmations can boost our sense of self: A small randomized controlled trial found that participants who used positive affirmations reflecting their values had more activity in the reward center of their brains (neural processes associated with positive self-view and self-competence) than those who didn’t.
- Affirmations can help with behavior change: A meta-analysis of 144 studies suggests that affirmations can support people who are trying to make positive behavioral changes.
- Affirmations can help us perform under stress: In a randomized controlled study, participants who repeated an affirmation related to a value they saw in themselves performed better in a stressful word-association problem-solving task than those who repeated an affirmation related to a value they didn’t consider important to them.
Using Affirmations to Embrace Uniqueness In addition to promoting neuroplasticity and offering other benefits, affirmations can also help us embrace what makes us unique. For example, psychotherapist Dr. Brian S. Canfield suggests using affirmations to help us focus on our strengths, rather than comparing ourselves to others. He recommends creating a list of positive affirmations that celebrate our unique qualities, such as “I am confident in my abilities” or “I am proud of my individuality.”
However, it’s important to note that affirmations are not a substitute for professional treatment if you’re experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-doubt, or stress. If you need help, talk to a mental health professional who can offer guidance and support.
Embracing our uniqueness is an essential part of living a fulfilling life. By practicing affirmations, we can promote neuroplasticity, improve our mental health and well-being, and learn to appreciate our unique qualities.
Starting an Affirmation Practice: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you’re interested in starting an affirmation practice, you may be wondering where to begin. Fortunately, starting an affirmation practice is quick, easy, and requires no equipment or setup. Here’s how to get started:
Pick Your Affirmation
The first step in starting an affirmation practice is to choose an affirmation that resonates with you. You can use a phrase you’ve heard before that really speaks to you, or you can create your own affirmation. According to Dr. Yeager, there are a few things to keep in mind when selecting an affirmation:
- Decide on a purpose: Think about what you’d like to get from the affirmation. Do you want it to reassure you of something, motivate you to accomplish a goal, or boost your confidence?
- Keep it short: Dr. Yeager suggests using a phrase that’s three to seven words long. “You want it to be quick, easy, and short enough that it can be repeated over and over,” he says.
- Keep it authentic: An affirmation needs to feel authentic in order to be effective, according to Dr. Zand. It should be something you believe is true, even if you don’t feel that truth all the time.
Decide How and When to Use It
Affirmations can be said out loud or in your head, depending on when and where you want to use them. If you’re at home, you can stand in front of a mirror and say your affirmation out loud. If you’re in a public setting, you may prefer to say it in your head.
When you choose to practice affirmations really depends on why you’re using them. If you want to start your day off on a positive note, Dr. Phillips recommends practicing affirmations in the morning. If you want to relax and regulate your nervous system after a long day, he suggests saying them in the evening.
Keep Using It
Once you’ve chosen your affirmation and the time of day you want to use it, try to make a regular habit of it. For example, if you’ve decided to practice affirmations in the morning, make it part of your morning routine. Repeat your affirmation as many times as you need. Regular practice is key to the effectiveness of affirmations, especially if you’re trying to change your thinking patterns or behaviors.
To help you stick with the practice, the Cleveland Clinic suggests writing your affirmations on notecards and placing them around your home, keeping them in your phone’s Notes app for easy access, or setting a reminder to repeat or reread your affirmations at the same time each day.
While affirmations can be a helpful tool for improving your mental health and overall well-being, they are not a substitute for professional treatment if you need it. If you’re experiencing persistent feelings of anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, self-doubt, or stress, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional who can help.
21 Affirmations to Boost Your Well-being
Looking for some inspiration for your affirmation practice? Check out these 21 sample affirmations recommended by experts in the field.
Affirmations for Confidence
- I believe in my abilities to make a difference in the world.
- I acknowledge that struggles are a part of life and I am strong enough to overcome them.
- I trust that I have the strength to endure any chaos that comes my way.
Affirmations for Self-Care
- I am capable of taking care of myself.
- I am worthy of love and respect, including from myself.
- I deserve to receive the best care and treatment possible.
Affirmations for Healthy Relationships
- I am deserving of love and respect from others.
- I am grateful for the love and support of my partner.
- I am open and ready to receive love in abundance.
Affirmations for the Morning
- I am grateful for a new day and the opportunities it brings.
- I choose to see the world with a loving and positive attitude.
- Today, I will strive to be the best version of myself.
Affirmations for Sleep
- My body deserves rest and rejuvenation.
- I am at peace with what I cannot control and I trust the process.
- I am excited for the new opportunities and experiences that tomorrow will bring.
Affirmations for Work/Productivity
- I trust that I am capable of doing my best work.
- I understand that failure is a part of growth and I am not defined by my mistakes.
- By consistently trying, I am setting myself up for success.
Affirmations for Sex and Healthy Sexuality
- My sexuality is valid and diverse, and can include a wide range of activities.
- I give myself permission to explore my sexuality and desires without judgment or shame.
- I honor my own needs and desires, and know that arousal can come before desire.
Remember, affirmations are most effective when used regularly and authentically. Choose the affirmations that resonate with you the most, and try incorporating them into your daily routine. You may find that over time, these positive affirmations become a powerful tool for cultivating self-love, resilience, and well-being.
Beloved Resources for Affirmations
If you’re not sure how to craft your own affirmations, there are numerous resources available. Here are some of our top recommendations.
This app provides guided meditations, sleep stories, and mindfulness programs. You can follow along with affirmations from the app, or repeat your own affirmations while practicing breathing exercises or listening to a calming soundscape.
This app offers daily meditations and affirmations, self-care courses, and journaling to promote emotional well-being.
- Positivity with Andrew Johnson
The app features affirmations and meditations to help you cultivate a more positive outlook, led by mindfulness expert Andrew Johnson.
- Affirmation Pod
Host Josie Ong releases weekly affirmation sessions, each under 15 minutes, featuring themes like “I am a Light,” “I am Resilient,” and “One Step at a Time.” In each one, Josie walks you through simple affirmations you can follow along with at home.
- Affirmation Babe
This podcast features empowering affirmation sessions to fit any schedule, from two-minute “Morning Gratitude Affirmations” to half-hour “Chakra Affirmations for All 7 Chakras,” as well as monthly affirmations tailored to each astrological sign. Host Ashley Diana talks through the theme of each session, before listing relevant affirmations you can repeat.
- Affirmations for Black Girls
This podcast offers a safe space for women to explore their emotions, providing discussions and affirmations on topics like “Finding Ways to Set Healthy Boundaries and Honor Your Personal Space” and “Learning to Celebrate Yourself Fearlessly After Trauma.”
Books on Affirmations
- Positive Affirmations: Daily Affirmations for Attracting Health, Healing, & Happiness Into Your Life by Rachel Robins
This book examines affirmations, how to practice them, and how to reframe negative thoughts. It also provides sample affirmations and tips for personalizing your own affirmations.
- Affirmations: The Power of Affirmations and the Secret to Their Success by Louise Stapely
This book explores the most effective ways to practice affirmations and answers questions like “How fast do affirmations work?” and “How do I know if my affirmations will work?”
- Daily Affirmations for Success and Happiness: 500 Positive Affirmations to Rewire Your Brain by Creed McGregor
This book provides a vast selection of sample affirmations to help you become the person you desire to be, create opportunities for success and happiness, and shift your thought patterns for the better.
Regular use of affirmations may boost your mood and alter your thinking patterns. Some studies suggest this practice can also impact your thought processes and problem-solving abilities. To begin, you can use sample affirmations or create your own meaningful phrase to practice daily. With the help of these resources, you can start your journey to a more positive mindset and healthier self-talk.