Self-Affirmations – what are they and how do they work?
Every now and then, life gets hard. We may experience a nasty breakup, get sacked at work, or fail to meet our responsibilities in general. Whatever it is, it falls onto us, and sooner or later, we may find ourselves questioning our worth.
Once you get into one of these negative mindsets things begin to feel heavy. And soon after this experience, you might hear people say things like: “Just don’t think about it.”, “Just work on your time management.”, “You really just need to make space for good and positive things to happen to you.”, “Learn how to change your negative thinking into something more positive”.
Now, this is just asking for a not-so-nice hand gesture to that person. Who wants to listen to this after going through something like a breakup or losing a job? As if you enjoyed overthinking, stress, and all the other things you feel when you feel like there are no options left.
But there is going to come a time when you tell yourself you might give it a go this time. And so, you do…
You soon begin to look up articles and some social media posts about positive thinking, practicing self-awareness and even the evergreen self-affirmations such as: “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better; I allow for good thing to happen to me; I am grateful for every day to come.; I am grateful for my loving family and my amazing friends.”.
When someone practices this, they are referring to self-affirmations. They are words of positivity, self-assurance and therefore, affirmation, which help you to accept the moment and let go of the fear of ‘What if?’. By truly believing in those words, it has been found to help people change the way think and feel about uncomfortable or stressful situations.
By beginning to think about all the things you are grateful for, you will put a pause on the negative way of thinking. Scientists found that if regularly practiced, self-affirmations can support better performance at work and in schools, coping with stress, overall health, and reducing defensiveness.
The secret is in creating a habit. A routine, which would be dedicated to nothing but positive thinking to which you believe. According to a study from the UK, to form a habit, you need to stick to it for about 66 days.
For starters, try and start with 3 to 5 minutes of self-affirming every day after you wake up, and before you go to sleep. Make yourself comfortable either on your bed, or in your favourite armchair, and repeat each affirmation about ten times.
These are just examples, but there are some basic rules:
- Always start with ‘I am’; use present tense.
- Keep it brief and positive.
- Specify the goal or the thing that you want to welcome.
- Include at least one emotional word, such as ‘love, happy’.
Self-affirmations can work miracles for certain people. In another scientific experiment, there was a group of people, in which some were very stressed in their life and some were happy.
Randomly chosen people were told to write a couple of sentences about why the thing that they value the most is important to them. After that, they all had to solve a puzzle that required some logical thinking. People who were stressed performed worse than happy people.
However, whether stressed or happy, the ones that did their self-affirmation routine before solving the puzzle performed as good as the happy group. This shows how truly believing in yourself and in what is important to you helps you do better even when you are stressed.
However, sometimes, these words of positivity and faith do not help. What is more, they can even induce far more negative thinking. In the next article, we will tell you about why that is the case, and how can you get to the state where even you can benefit from it.
Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual Review of Psychology, 65, 333-371
Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2007). Self-affirmation theory. In R. Baumeister and K. Vohs (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Social Psychology (pp. 787-789). Thousand Oakes: Sage Publications
Lally, P., Van Jaarsveld, C. H., Potts, H. W., & Wardle, J. (2010). How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world. European journal of social psychology, 40(6), 998-1009.
Creswell, J. D., Dutcher, J. M., Klein, W. M., Harris, P. R., & Levine, J. M. (2013). Self-affirmation improves problem-solving under stress. PloS one, 8(5), e62593.