Affirmations: What is it, Benefits, How does it work?

Positive affirmations have a host of health benefits, including making us more focused on our goals as well as reducing our stress levels

Don’t we all talk to ourselves? Be it a pep talk before a challenging presentation at work, or consoling ourselves as we combat grief; what we tell ourselves can make all the difference to our mood. So why not focus on saying something positive? That is what affirmations are all about.

When we repeat positive statement to ourselves, it fills us up with positive energy, and we seem happier, and even more determined. A study published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience states that affirmation directed at oneself, helps activate our brain systems and helps us in feeling more competent. Health Shots got in touch with psychologist Roshni Sondhi Abbi to understand how affirmations help us become healthier and happier.

What are affirmations?

Positive affirmations are interventions involving an individual repeating positive statements about oneself in the hope that it disrupts negative thought processes. “Such positive affirmations help in reinforcing the response functions of words, for example, ‘I am wonderful’. The concept is often associated with self-help and positive psychology, explains Abbi.

Health benefits of affirmations

Don’t disregard the benefit of cheering for yourself! Not only do affirmations help us to feel better, but these can make us happier and healthier too. Here are some health benefits associated with affirmations.

1. May build positive self esteem

Positive self-affirmations may help counteract the negative impact of thoughts in threatening situations. Using positive affirmations, focusing on our strengths, and challenging negative thoughts helps in building a positive self-esteem. “For example, instead of saying, ‘I won’t be able to do this,’ try saying, ‘I am capable. I am worthy’, works better.

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2. May make your behaviour goal-directed

Imagine having your own cheering squad! Affirmations may influence self-perception, self-esteem, and goal-directed behaviours. You are motivated to take on something that is challenging, and you are confident that you can achieve what you want.

Woman working on a laptop
Positive affirmations can make you more focused and reduce your stress levels. Image courtesy: Freepik

3. May reduce stress

Affirmations can actually help in reducing your stress levels. A study, published in Plos One, states that affirmations help in enhancing our problem-solving skills and can help lowering our stress levels.

4. May help you get rid of negative beliefs

There might be some beliefs that we have about our own capabilities or weaknesses since years. Affirmations helps us change these. They rewire our brain and these negative beliefs can be changed into something positive through positive affirmations.

You can read more about the science behind how affirmations work.

How to start affirmations?

The process of starting affirmations is similar to incorporating any other cognitive or behavioural habit into our routine, says Abbi. Some of the general points that could be kept in mind include:

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1. Identify your goals

First, be clear about the specific goal you want to work towards. Reflect on your intention for practicing affirmations. Try and align your goals with your values and belief systems.

2. Formulate a positive affirmation identify

The core message that you want to tell yourself should be very clear to you. Use positive statements, keep them short, simple and direct.

A woman smiling at herself in the mirror.
Consistency is the key to positive affirmations working in your life. Image courtesy: Freepik

3. Be consistent

Like for any other process of habit formation, being consistent is essential. Incorporating a fixed time within your routine can help increase the regularity of your habits being practiced.

Also Read: Shilpa Shetty’s 5 daily affirmations can give your self-esteem and confidence an instant boost

4. Be genuine

For any cognitive change in your thinking pattern, it is important that you are authentic and genuine. Do not try to deceive yourself, and be true to your values, and believe in yourself. An affirmation cannot be helpful until it is internalized.

5. Don’t lose hope

Remember, while affirmations can be a helpful tool for some, they may not work equally well for everyone. Researchers continue to explore the nuances of affirmation practices, and individual preferences and psychological factors do play a role in their effectiveness.

Things to stay away from while fixing affirmations

Affirmations cannot do any magic, and cannot miraculously manifest wishes into reality! “It’s important to approach affirmations with a balanced perspective, being aware that their effectiveness can vary among individuals is crucial,” explains Abbi.

Therefore, if you choose to practice affirmations, try and reflect on how they can help you bridge any gap towards your ideal self. And such a change cannot happen without being accompanied by behavioural efforts to support the change, personal growth and empowerment. “Remember, affirmations are not a substitute for professional mental health interventions, and we should not hesitate to seek appropriate professional help if required,” explains Abbi.

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