Our thoughts and our words have a direct impact on us, and those around us. They shape our emotions, behaviours, and actions.
If you’ve ever enjoyed one of my group coaching sessions, you’ll know this is an area I’m very passionate about! Becoming more mindful of our thoughts, and directing our thoughts and words in a more mindful and focused way, can bring about immediate positive change in our lives. Just a small shift can have a significant positive impact!
We are what we think, all that we are arises with our thoughts, with our thoughts we make the world.Buddha
Most of us know that when we think positively, our words and lives begin to reflect those thoughts. Whether or not we believe we’re beautiful, powerful, or full of energy, studies have shown that our confidence and alertness begin to increase simply by telling ourselves that we are.
The opposite is also true. When we speak negatively of ourselves and the world around us, those words impact our state of mind and wellbeing. Consider for a moment, your own language, and how you might be self-sabotaging! Which words and thoughts are negatively impacting you physically, emotionally, or mentally?
Do any of the following resonate?
“I’m just not good enough.”
“I’m never going to be able to do this job; I’m just not smart enough.”
“I’m not confident enough to do that.”
Many of us have negative thoughts like these, sometimes frequently. When we think like this, our confidence, mood and outlook can become negative, too.
The problem with negative thoughts is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. We talk ourselves into believing that we’re not good enough. And, as a result, these thoughts drag down our personal lives, our relationships, and our careers.
Fortunately, with a little more focus and mindful practice, we can recognize and root out disempowering words and thoughts, and experience the positive shift in our life that comes with doing so. An important skill that mindful practice teaches is the ability to observe your thoughts. If you’d like to develop this skill, I can share a wonderful exercise with you – The Sushi Train: Mindful Creation of Positive Thoughts (Source – PositivePsychology.com). Simply contact me directly and I will happily explore this resource with you.
We can also actively shift our focus, and develop a more positive outlook, by using positive affirmations.
What are positive affirmations?
Positive affirmations are almost as easy to define as they are to practice! Put simply, they are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. Practicing positive affirmations can be extremely simple, and all you need to do is pick a phrase and repeat it to yourself.
You may choose to use positive affirmations to motivate yourself, encourage positive changes in your life, or boost your self-esteem. If you frequently find yourself getting caught up in negative self-talk, positive affirmations can be used to combat these often subconscious patterns and replace them with more adaptive narratives.
How can they support positive thinking, and positive outcomes?
You might consider affirmations to be unrealistic ‘wishful thinking’, but try looking at positive affirmations this way: many of us do repetitive exercises to improve our physical health, and affirmations are like exercises for our mind and outlook. These positive mental repetitions can reprogram our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think – and act – differently.
Evidence suggests that affirmations can help you to perform better in life, and in your work. According to researchers, spending just a few minutes thinking about your best qualities before a pressured or stressful situation, can calm your nerves, increase your confidence, and improve your chances of a successful outcome.
Self-affirmation may also help to mitigate the effects of stress. In one study, a short affirmation exercise boosted the problem-solving abilities of “chronically stressed” subjects to the same level as those with low stress.
What’s more, affirmations have been used to successfully treat people with low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health conditions. And they have been shown to stimulate the areas in our brains that make us more likely to affect positive changes in regard to our health.
This latter study suggests that a stronger sense of self-worth makes you more likely to improve your own well-being. So, for example, if you’re worried that you eat too much and don’t get enough exercise, using affirmations to remind yourself of your values can spur you on to change your behavior.
You can use affirmations in any situation where you’d like to see a positive change take place in your life. For example;
- Control negative feelings such as frustration, anger, or impatience.
- Improve your self-esteem.
- Finish projects you’ve started.
- Improve your productivity.
- Overcome a bad habit.
Affirmations can help boost the effectiveness and impact of other self-development and personal performance interventions –
Affirmations work particularly well alongside visualization. Instead of just picturing the change you’d like to see, you can also write it down or say it aloud using a positive affirmation. Read more here about the Power of Visualization!
Affirmations are also useful when setting personal goals. Once you’ve identified the goals you’d like to achieve, affirmative statements can help you to keep yourself motivated in order to achieve them. Read more here about the Power of Goals!
The effectiveness of affirmations has been proven in various studies. If you’d like to read more about this, the following blog from PositivePsychology.com provides a deeper insight into affirmations.
It’s important however to follow some useful steps in creating your affirmations, otherwise you may find them not to be quite so effective!
Affirmations are at their most effective when they are –
- in the present
- personal & meaningful to you
- credible & achievable
- concise & specific
- less is often more
- repeated at least 3 times a day for 30 days in a row
A useful starting point for creating your affirmation could be ‘Every day I am becoming more ……..‘
Here are some reasons why they are more effective stated this way:
Phrase all of your affirmations positively.
Instead of using “I am not a procrastinator” you could say “I am procrastination-free.” Your subconscious doesn’t understand negative words such as not, don’t, won’t, or can’t. Your affirmations become even more powerful if you include reasons for them such as “I am procrastination-free because I do my daily tasks.”
Always use the present tense.
Also, avoid words like “should”, “could” or “would” because they imply that you could be a certain way but not necessarily are. Write and speak your affirmation as if it’s already happening. This helps you to believe that the statement is true right now. Your subconscious only recognizes the present tense. You have to train your subconscious mind to think in terms of what you already are. Choose a condition you desire and state it to be already true such as “I am confident because I set boundaries and speak up.”
Make them as personal as possible by stating reasons that fit your individual life or schedule.
Think about the areas of your life that you’d like to change. For instance, do you wish that you had more patience? Or deeper relationships with your friends and colleagues? Or would you like a more productive workday? For instance, if you are currently trying to get in shape you could say “I am healthy because I go to the gym for one hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays” instead of simply stating “I am healthy”.
In making them personal to you, it’s useful to consider whether they are compatible with your core values – the things that most matter to you, so that you’ll feel genuinely motivated to achieve them.
Be sure that your affirmation is credible and achievable.
Base it on a realistic assessment of the facts. For instance, imagine that you’re unhappy with the level of salary that you currently receive. You could use affirmations to raise your confidence to ask for a salary increase. However, it probably wouldn’t be wise to affirm to yourself that you’re going to double your salary: for most people, and most organizations, doubling what you’re earning in one go isn’t feasible. Keep it realistic! After all, affirmations are not magic spells – if you can’t believe in them, it’s unlikely they’ll impact your life.
Be concise and specifc.
Very general affirmations such as “I am healthy” or “I am happy” are too vague to be understood by your subconscious. Choose statements that are specifically important to you at the time you practice them. Make them as personal as possible by stating reasons that fit your individual life or schedule. For instance, if you are currently trying to get in shape you could say “I am healthy because I go to the gym for one hour on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays” instead of simply stating “I am healthy”.
So often in life, less is more!
Focus on what you feel you specifically need and want to work on at this moment. Ideally, focus on no more than 10 affirmations at a time. This will keep the information for your subconscious manageable.
Make Repetition a Priority – repeat them at least 3 times a day for 30 days in a row
The power of affirmations lies in repeating them to yourself regularly. It’s useful to recite your affirmations several times a day (have them pop up in your notifications, or have them on your home screen!). You also need to repeat your affirmations as soon as you engage in the negative thought or behavior that you want to overcome.
I hope this post has been useful to you in reflecting on the value of affirmations in helping you achieve positive change in your life. If you have any questions about the content or would like to explore coaching together with me, please do get in touch.