Have you ever regretted not doing something because you psyched yourself out? Whether it be asking someone out on a date, confronting a family member, or asking the boss for a raise, we tend to overestimate how bad the consequences really are.
“We all talk to ourselves. A major key to success exists in what we say to ourselves, which helps to shape our attitude and mindset.”
– Darren Johnson
In other words, we “think too much” about what could happen and convince ourselves that these actions are not worth the trouble.
However, people are much more mentally resilient than they often give themselves credit for.
What Are Self-Affirmations?
Self-affirmations are statements that we tell ourselves in order to spark self-change (Steele, 1988). They are designed to alter our beliefs about ourselves such that they are more positive.
Generally speaking, self-affirmations serve as part of the psychological immune system. For example, when your boss harshly critiques your work, we give ourselves positive reminders like “it’s going to be okay” to help cope with the situation.
Although we use self-affirmations as a coping mechanism, they can also motivate us. Quite simply, when we feel good about ourselves, we are more likely to take action. So when we tell ourselves that “I love my job”, we feel good about going to work.
In contrast, when we feel bad about ourselves we become complacent, depressed, and are at a greater risk for health problems (Pauketat, Moons, Chen, Mackie, & Sherman, 2016).
The Benefits of Daily Affirmations
“It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life, it’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power.”
– Robert Kiyosaki
Affirmations are more than just a self-help statements to make ourselves feel better. They can have a significant impact on our overall quality of life. Regular affirmations allow us to become more in tune with our thoughts and the way we think about our self in general.
When we are conscious of our attitudes towards the self, we can make an effort to eliminate negative thoughts. When we become more aware of ourselves, we are able to be mindful of surrounding ourselves with positive things.
The more you practice the more you notice what aspects of your life are most important to you as well as things that may be impeding on your happiness.
Additionally, daily affirmations help keep you in consistently positive mood. Optimistic people tend to be healthier, more productive, and generally happier than those who view themselves less positively. One study shows that after 4-weeks of repeated self-affirmation activity, participants experienced an increase in their mental well-being (Nelson, Fuller, Choi, & Lyubomirsky, 2014).
Daily affirmations allow us to have a clearer perspective on the obstacles in our life. In other words, people who practice daily affirmations don’t sweat the small stuff because they have a better grasp on what is important in their life. They are able to think about the big picture and not get overwhelmed with minor nuisances.
Positivity is contagious. By practicing positive affirmations, you are indirectly benefiting others as well. Your positive attitude will carry on to other people and in turn make them feel better.
What do Daily Affirmations Look Like?
Daily affirmations can be a difficult thing to do. Especially if you are someone who has struggled with self-compassion before, saying something nice about yourself is not always the easiest. To begin, we need to identify some of the properties of good affirmations.
Most importantly, an affirmation needs to be stated in the present and be positive. For example, “I expect to be successful”, would be one such affirmation. Notice that is written in the present; it does not say “I will be successful.”
An affirmation should be immediately gratifying for it to be effective. Also, it needs to be positive as well as unconditional. Saying something like “I will be successful after I get promoted” implies that a condition must be met in order for you to benefit. These kinds of affirmations can be more problematic than they are helpful.
Affirmations are more beneficial when they are repeated. The more you repeat the same affirmation, the more your unconscious begins to believe it. By continually subjecting our mind to positive thoughts, we are actively changing how brain functions (Shaffer, 2016). Over time we are training our brains to think more positively through self-affirmations.
Lastly, write your affirmations down. Saying good things about yourself aloud is one thing, but writing them down increases their potency. Writing an affirmation down allows your mind one more way to absorb the positive message.
The benefits of daily affirmations have been scientifically supported and can help a lot of people. Like with most things in life, the hardest part is getting started.
It might seem silly or trivial at first, but the outcomes are real. People are just happier when they practice daily affirmations. I have listed some example affirmations below to help you get started.
Pick one, say it aloud, write it down, and start changing your life for the better.
Examples of Affirmations:
- “My life is fun and rewarding.”
- “I am smart and capable of accomplishing anything.”
- “I am grateful for everything I have.”
- “It’s easy for me to meet people. I attract positive, kind-hearted people.”
- “I am confident and able to handle any obstacle thrown in front of me.”
- “I have integrity. I tell the truth.”
- “I am diligent. I am hard working.”
- “I am energetic and full of enthusiasm.”
- “I am calm and peaceful”
“Be mindful of your self-talk. It’s a conversation with the Universe.”
– David James Lees
Nelson, S. K., Fuller, J. K., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Beyond self-protection: Self-affirmation benefits hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 998-1011.
Pauketat, J. T., Moons, W. G., Chen, J. M., Mackie, D. M., & Sherman, D. K. (2016). Self-affirmation and affective forecasting: Affirmation reduces the anticipated impact of negative events. Motivation And Emotion, 40, 750-759.
Shaffer, J. (2016). Neuroplasticity and clinical practice: Building brain power for health. Frontiers In Psychology, 7.
Steele, C. M. (1988). The psychology of self-affirmation: Sustaining the integrity of the self. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 22, 181-227.