The way that we talk to ourselves is powerful. When we tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough or can’t do something, we self-sabotage and can stop ourselves from even trying. Negative thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Positive affirmations can have powerful effects on our inner dialogue and direct us towards achieving the things we want in our lives.
What are Positive Affirmations?
Have you ever felt stressed and told yourself, “this is going to turn out ok”, “I have the skills I need to do this task”, or “all I can do is my best…” If the answer is yes, then you have already used the power of positive affirmations.
Positive affirmations are short sentences or mantras that you tell yourself to combat negative feelings and self-sabotaging thoughts. By repeating affirmations, the negative thought or feeling is gradually worn down and replaced with something positive. This process degrades the power of negative thoughts and harnesses the power of our internal dialogue for the force of good.
You can use positive affirmations in almost any area of your life. You can use them to:
- Improve your sense of general well-being
- Find a sense of calm and peace in a difficult working environment
- Help power through a difficult situation in your life
- Strengthen your faith in a romantic relationship
- Aid your recovery journey from addiction
What are the Effects of Using Positive Affirmations?
Replace Negative Self-talk with Positive Thinking
The main effect that positive affirmations have is to replace negative self-talk with a more positive outlook and belief in oneself.
For example, the negative thought “I’m not worthy of my partner’s love. I’m fundamentally broken, and they’ll soon find someone better than me!” might lead someone to push their loved one away and even end the relationship prematurely.
A positive affirmation to counter this thought could be, “I am worthy of love and respect. I am whole and secure in the love of those around me.” By regularly repeating this, you retrain your brain to think positively and banish the self-sabotaging negative thoughts through the sheer power of repetition.
Guide You Towards Healthier Coping Strategies
Positive affirmations can provide an opening for action around something you are struggling with. Repeating affirmations around difficult tasks or a habit you are trying to break often serves as the first step towards change.
For example, if you are struggling to cope with criticism in your workplace environment, you might try repeating affirmations such as “I understand that criticism from my coworkers is not an indictment of my worth as a human being,” and “I retain a deep sense of peace even when I’m annoyed.” Then when you next receive criticism that you find difficult, these statements will rise to the surface of your mind, and you’ll be more likely to remember to take a deep breath to retain a sense of calm.
Reveal Areas of Your Life that You May Need Support With
Even when positive affirmations cannot solve the issue you are trying to tackle, they can make you more aware of your inner feelings and thoughts. This is an important step towards improving other areas of your psychological and emotional well-being.
For example, you might believe the main problem you have with taking regular exercise is that you are lazy. You might try and use motivating positive affirmations such as “I love running” or “I feel energized and ready for my session at the gym” only to find that saying these statements aloud have no effect on your desire to go, but instead conjure up feelings of guilt and trauma from a bad time at school. This then highlights an area of focus for your personal development, which will ultimately help you in the long run and you could bring this to your therapist.
Can Positive Affirmations have a Negative Effect?
Positive affirmations have proven useful to many Americans for increasing positivity, building confidence, and helping them achieve their goals. However, self-esteem plays an important role in the effects that positive affirmations have on the person practicing them, and unfortunately, not everyone can reap the same rewards.
A team of researchers at the University of Waterloo found that people with lower self-esteem were put in a worse mood when made to repeat positive affirmations about themselves or their lives. The researchers believe this is because the difference between the affirmation and the reality of how you feel is too strong, so it feels like we are lying to ourselves and emphasizes the gap between how we want to feel and how we really feel.
People with lower self-esteem might find it more useful to use neutral affirmations rather than positive affirmations to nudge their thoughts in the right direction. For example:
- “Even if I do not always feel worthy, I know that people love me.”
- “Even though I feel hurt by criticism, I know it is not a judgment of my worth.”
- “Running can be fun.”
You can also use questions instead of affirmations to largely the same effect – for example:
- “Can I accept that I am worthy of love and respect?”
- “Is it possible that criticism from my coworkers is not an indictment of my worth as a human being?”
- “Could I enjoy running?”
Positive affirmations cannot fix everything in our lives – but they can provide a really helpful tool for adjusting our inner monologue and harnessing the power of positivity along the way.