I was never been a fan of affirmations. I thought, “Why would I want to repeat some phrase that I don’t really believe?” Especially if the phrase was positive and I wasn’t feeling all that positive about what I was doing. The idea of thinking about something upbeat and totally the opposite of what I was doing, was a bit depressing.
Only recently, have I come to realize the power of affirmations. Affirmations actually work. They work if you keep repeating them.
For years I have said, and know to be true, that the brain does not understand the opposite of a request. The brain simply negates negatives. If you say, “I won’t eat candy.” The brain hears “Eat candy” and off to the store you go to buy a big bag of M&Ms. Affirmations work on this same principle. If you say, “I exercise everyday” and you don’t, it eventually creates what is called cognitive dissonance and the brain doesn’t know what to do. So the first thing that happens is you resist saying the statement. You get depressed and you may even think affirmations are stupid – oh yeah, I did that. However, if you push through the resistance, eventually your body and mind will crave congruence (in this case, exercise). At that point, it will become mental torture to lie around when you are repeating that you exercise every day. You will want to get up and exercise. As Aristotle stated, “We may lay it down that pleasure is a movement, a movement by which the soul as a whole is consciously brought into its normal state of being; and that Pain is the opposite.” Freud has been recognized as identifying the Pleasure-Pain Principle (or Pleasure-Unpleasure), in that humans seek pleasure and move away from pain or “unpleasure.” When not acting on your affirmations becomes more unpleasurable than pleasurable, you are moved to bring your actions into congruence with your affirmations.
In a case study I conducted over a decade ago of women in drug and alcohol rehabilitation, I was critical of the “scripts” the women repeated with little sincerity. I felt like it was an attempt to beat the system; and, it may very well have been. The women knew what to say, even though they were not living their lives in concert with the scripts. They knew that the scripts made it sound like they were making progress. Many of the women in the center were there by court order. Whether they wanted to change or not was hard for me to discern. At the time, I was sure none of the women thought, I want to be a drug addict and go back to the streets or jail, but I wasn’t sure they weren’t thinking “I can’t wait to get high again.” As a part of the research, I realize that the “scripts” they were repeating aloud, might help ready them for change. What I didn’t realize is that the script might actually be one of the most significant things to motivate them to eventually changing their life. When we continually repeat that we are love ourselves and only want to do what is right, it is hard to do self-destructive things we know are wrong.
Yes, you’ve heard it before. Affirmations work!
Here are some tips for creating a personal affirmation program:
1. Use present tense – The best way to craft your affirmations is to say it in the present tense. “I am now….” “Everyday I…” etc. This creates that cognitive dissonance where your brain hears what you are doing and at the same time knows you are not doing it.
2. State your affirmations aloud – by stating your affirmation aloud, it integrates into both your conscious and subconscious. You are using multiple parts of your brain: your voice and your ears.
3. Write your affirmations daily – by writing you are using the kinesthetic (touch) and visual (seeing) parts of your brain.
4. Close your eyes and imagine – imagine yourself engaged in the activity that is consistent with your affirmation. If your affirmation is that you weigh 125lbs, imagine yourself thin, with an athletic body and full of energy. This paints that mental picture. Your brain moves toward equilibrium and will want your outward image to match the inward image.
5. Repeat your affirmation process two or three times a day. The more you repeat your affirmation process, the more it is incorporated into your consciousness and the more it becomes difficult to not fulfill your affirmation. You will be propelled toward fulfilling your affirmation.
~ You are awesome and living a fulfilling life. ~