Affirmations – A Beginner’s Guide
Are you interested in using personal affirmations to effect change or growth but not sure where you should start? Maybe you’ve heard about the positive life-changing effects they can have, but don’t know what you’re supposed to do, or perhaps you’ve given it a go and can’t get over how silly it feels, or can’t convince yourself that what you’re telling yourself is true?
Well, fear not friend! This step-by-step guide for beginners will take you through exactly what an affirmation is, how they work, how to create meaningful affirmations which don’t feel icky to you, and how best to utilise them to create positive change in your life.
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So, first things first…
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation is the declaration of a quality which you possess, or else would like to possess. It is usually used in the present tense, and can be long-winded and wordy, like this:
“I am successful and brilliant! I welcome abundance into my life and receive it with gratitude, I inspire people daily with my go-getting attitude and sparkling personality, my hair smells like strawberries, and rainbows and songbirds follow me wherever I go…!”
Or short and succinct:
“I am brave”
But what if I’m not brave (and my hair doesn’t smell like strawberries?!)
That is the point! Regular repetition of positive affirmations will result in change:
In this instance, the affirmation I am brave would be used either by somebody who already believes this to be true but wishes to keep this belief in the forefront of their mind as a gentle nudge to keep them on top form, or else by someone who WANTS to be brave but doesn’t yet feel that they are.
Simply put, the logic is that if this bravery-lacking person repeats the affirmation “I am brave” regularly enough, they will start to believe it is true, and so it will become true…
(Not sure it’ll make your hair smell any different though… for that there’s shampoo! )
Wondering if this is just hippie new age fluff? Here comes the science…
How do affirmations work?
Every time you repeat your affirmations, whether concerned with bravery, weight loss or world domination, you are sending your brain a message. Neurons in the brain fire in response to this message, creating pathways.
These neural pathways grow stronger the more you build on them, (which you do with regular repetition of your affirmations) rewiring your brain and causing you to incorporate behavioural changes which align with these statements.
Do affirmations work for everyone?
Well, yes and no…
Affirmations can sometimes actually make you feel worse – for people with low self-esteem, for example, the using of positive affirmations can heighten negative feelings, as the distance between where you would like to be and where you feel you currently are, seems that much harder to bridge. This results in feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness.
In these instances, affirmations can still be effective, but meaningful and personal wording is absolutely essential:
Rather than picking generic “I am awesome”, “I am worthy of love” type affirmations, which may well consider unbelievable and unattainable, I recommended that you create your own affirmations using your core values as a basis.
Beliefs and values
Wording your affirmation to reflect your deepest beliefs and the things you already value is much more believable than simply stating that you feel something which at the moment, you simply don’t.
For example, if you strongly value your relationships with others, you could write an affirmation such as:
“My connection with those I care about is essential to my wellbeing, my friends support and lift me, helping me grow.”
This will likely feel more believable and therefore have a much more positive effect than stating:
“I am loved unconditionally”
Baby steps…start small with affirmations which will help you develop your feelings of self-worth, and go from there.
Related reading: Intentional Living – Live a Life that’s True to You!
Eagle eyes among you may have noticed that in the above example, the recommended affirmation didn’t start with the words “I AM…”
“ I AM. Two most powerful words, for what you put after them shapes your reality”
This is a quote I am very fond of, and something I personally agree with….BUT…not all the time – not for everyone…
I believe the reason some people try to incorporate affirmations into their lives and don’t have success with them, is because they did what they were told they should do by every self-respecting affirmation guru – they started their statement with the words I AM.
Sometimes it’s just too much.
It doesn’t matter if your self-esteem is rock bottom or sky high, I’m just gonna go ahead and put it out there that the words “I am” simply don’t work for everyone.
How can I write an affirmation that will work for me?
Consider this your permission to switch it up a little…
Present tense is good – ideally, you shouldn’t start an affirmation with I will – in order to take full advantage of the brain-boosting chemical magic you need to keep it in the now rather than the one day, but if the words I am don’t work for you, maybe you could try something a little softer:
“I choose to…”
“I am learning how to…”
“I allow myself to…”
To create your affirmations, consider paying attention to how you generally feel and react to situations throughout the day, paying particular attention to any areas of negativity or repeated patterns:
Maybe you hear yourself saying you can’t afford this or that, or you aren’t any good at sport
Do you often find yourself complaining about the same thing?
Take these as areas to lavish a bit of self-love on…
Negative to positive bubble
Every time you catch yourself saying things like:
“I can’t do…*clever thing*”
“I can’t afford…*lovely thing*”
“What if people think…*bad thing*”
Pause and see how you can switch it around. Imagine a bubble enveloping your words and replacing the negative with a positive alternative.
“I can do…*clever thing*”
“*lovely thing* will soon be mine…”
“Maybe people think I’m amaaaazing!”
Use these newly revamped and positive statements as the basis of your affirmations.
Repeat them every. single. day.
Maybe every night before bed as part of an evening routine or when you wake, as part of a morning routine, shout them out loud when you are showering, write them in your journal. Make them your mantras, repeat them to yourself whenever you need to.
Related reading: How to write a personal mission statement and find your inner awesome!
Shout it loud or use your inside voice?
I feel this a matter of personal choice. It has been said that speaking your affirmations out loud has the most benefits, increasing confidence and sending a stronger message to your brain. However, I know that certain situations make this really hard to do:
For example, I live in an itty bitty little house and like to do my affirmations in the morning when my husband and kids are still asleep, and personally, I like them to stay that way. Shouting my affirmations from the rooftops simply isn’t conducive to this end.
I do whisper them to myself. But I know there are some people who even the idea of whispering makes them feel ridiculous and these people point blank will only read them silently.
They still get results.
This, I believe, is because the key to effective affirmations is less in the spoken word and more in the visualisation.
Visualisation is to affirmation what Sam is to Frodo…
This is where the power is, one rarely succeeds without the other.
It’s not enough to just say the words. You have to feel them. Every time you repeat your affirmations, whether you are a loud-and-proud or a hide-it-inside kind of person, you need to visualise the end result.
For example, if you are aiming for financial security, then simply telling yourself that you are wealthy with no real feeling isn’t going to get you far. But telling yourself you are wealthy (or, as previously discussed, if this is too much of a stretch: “I am open to opportunities to increase my wealth/ abundance is available to me/I choose to make better choices with my money” etc…) and combining this with a strong mental picture of how financial security looks to you will create a stronger, more powerful connection in your subconscious. Feel that end result to attract those riches! (You might also do well to get a head start on handling your finances with Kakeibo – the Japanese Budgeting Journal!)
If you are working on confidence then alongside your words you need to be imagining your best, most confident you. Really see it, imagine how it would feel to be that person, self-assured and radiant.
Revisit this feeling each and every time you affirm your intent, and wonderful things will happen!
- Affirmations are statements of intent designed to help you grow.
- Regular repetition of positive affirmations strengthens pathways in your brain, altering the way you see yourself and your abilities. This in turns helps you put your new found confidence into action to create the change you wish to see.
- Affirmations are not a one size fits all thing. You know yourself best. Create your own affirmations which will work best for you if you just aren’t feeling it.
- Pay attention to your words and actions and see where you can make positive changes to your life.
- You might get better results from saying affirmations out loud – but visualisation is key!
Let me know if this has been helpful to you! What areas of your life do you wish to see growth in? What affirmations are you working on right now?