Affirmations: do they really work?
Some people swear by affirmations. Others think they’re a load of hogwash.
I used to be one of the latter group. How on earth was repeating a sentence multiple times every day supposed to make things change? I definitely had my doubts.
Then I found out about some research on affirmations, research that shed a lot of light on the situation.
The research said that affirmations do indeed work very well for some people, but they don’t work for others.
Naturally, that got the researchers pretty curious as to why that should be the case, so they did some more research about why, and here’s what they found.
To work well, affirmations must be realistic and believable to the person using them.
That means that affirmations such as ‘I am a relaxed person’ tend to work really well for people who are indeed relaxed, as it affirms their knowledge about themselves and makes them feel good about it.
However, for someone who knows that they are very anxious, this affirmation simply makes them feel worse every time they repeat it to themselves as they know it is simply not true.
So what do you do if you want to have an affirmation that is about being relaxed when you know your reality is quite the opposite right now?
Well, in order for that to happen, you need to change the sentence in a way that makes it realistic and believable for you.
There are three key ways you can do that.
1. Turn it in to a process
Processes look like this:
“I am _____ing….”
- “I am learning techniques so I can become more relaxed.”
- “I am learning how to relax.”
- “I am practising relaxation techniques every day.”
- “I am becoming more relaxed as time goes by.”
- “I am helping myself to feel relaxed by focusing on my breathing.”
2. Focus on capability
Capability statements look like this:
“I am capable of…”
- “I can learn how to become a relaxed person.”
- “I can calm my body any time I need to.”
- “I can practice relaxation techniques every day.”
- “I am capable of figuring this out.”
- “I am capable of finding out what I need to know.”
3. Use words that ring true for you.
For me personally, a lot of the affirmations I’ve found on the internet seem a little flowery. They don’t feel particularly grounded in reality or relatable to me or my life.
Although my unconscious mind won’t reject them in the way it would a statement that just seems blatantly untrue, it won’t easily accept them either.
It’s therefore important for me to keep looking until I find some that do feel right to me, or to create my own.
One of my clients demonstrated this perfectly for me.
He had had several significant emotional life events occur in quick succession, and as a result had started having panic attacks.
He had come to see me to help him get back on track and though we never discussed affirmations, he once told me that on his bad days he would remind himself how determined he was.
The exact words he used?
“I am a determined little bugger.”
I highly doubt you’ll ever find that in a list of recommended affirmations to use, but it was a fantastic affirmation for him. It was 100% his statement, in his language, and he knew it to be true of himself. It reminded him that even though he didn’t have all the answers yet, he would find them, and he would beat it.
It worked for him perfectly.
So in choosing affirmations that work for you, make sure they ring true. They should feel good and feel strong. They should be a fit for your situation and belief system.
And if it doesn’t feel right, keep playing. Keep adjusting the words, or looking to things you know to be true about yourself until you find something that both your conscious mind and unconscious mind absolutely love.