Why Affirmations

posted in: Mindfulness | 0

If you consciously engage in any mindfulness practice, you may be familiar with affirmations.

If you remember Al Franken’s character Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live – “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me” – you’re familiar with affirmations.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me introduce you.

You may have heard motivational speaker Tony Robbins say “Where focus goes, energy flows,” and this is the idea behind affirmations: short, positive, thoughtful phrases or statements that you can repeat to yourself which leads to changes in your thought patterns. What you tell yourself, your inner dialog, matters, and so you’d best be careful of the words and thoughts you choose.

As you go through life, you’re constantly affirming your own thoughts and beliefs. Throughout each day, you consciously and unconsciously tell yourself things based on your belief system. The problem is, much of the time you may actually be re-affirming negative thoughts rather than positive ones. With affirmations, it’s the intentional use of positive affirmations that brings about results.

Affirmations are not just a woo-woo thing. There is actually a science behind it. There is MRI evidence suggesting that certain neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmations, such as a daily practice of repeating positive affirmations. Self-affirmations have been found to decrease health-deteriorating stress and improve academic achievement. In fact, a recent study by researchers at Carnegie Mellow University found that people under high stress did about 50% worse on a problem-solving test. However, when those same people used a brief self-affirmation first, they did just as well as the other participants.

So what if you haven’t practiced affirmations before. It can feel pretty awkward at first, but because it takes very little time and doesn’t cost a thing I suggest you give it a try. Here are some guidelines:

Make them present moment
Your mind needs to know you’re doing something now, not in the future. So, if you want to exercise more, instead of saying “I will exercise more,” you might say, “I move my body every day in ways that will keep me strong and flexible” (this is one of my own personal affirmations).

Practice often
Because they take so little time, be sure to repeat your affirmations often. While there are no hard and fast rules, three to five times daily can reinforce the positive belief. I write mine in a journal that I keep close at hand. This not only helps me to remember them, but also makes them feel more concrete. Say them out loud. Up the ante by practicing in front of a mirror.

Make it personal
Use the word “I” and “my” when practicing your phrases. “I am free from self-limiting beliefs, judgments and doubts.” “I am free from the desire to smoke.” “Wellness is the natural state of my body. I am in perfect health.” You get the idea.

Be literal, be positive
The mind can’t process the absence of an act. So instead of “I will not get angry anymore,” eliminate the use of the word not – “I am calm, compassionate and understanding. I am in control of my emotions.”

Develop a strong intention
Give your full attention to what you’re saying. See it happening, create a vivid experience. Imagine it already happening.

Take action
This may be the most important part, and where that Tony Robbins phrase comes in. Your behavior needs to match your words. If you want to become an expert in mindfulness, take classes, read up and practice, practice, practice.

If they’re not already part of your practice, why not give affirmations a try. I have pages of affirmations, with expanded reflection and reflective questions, on my website if you need a gentle nudge to get you started.

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