In this article our EAP Specialist, Coach and Trainer Libby, talks to us about how we can start our journey towards implementing positive self-affirmation practices and just how beneficial they can be.
Have you ever stopped for a moment, to notice how you talk to yourself? What sorts of things do you hear your mind telling you? Do any of these statements sound familiar:
“I’m not enough”, “I should have known better”, “Why am I so stupid”, “I am unattractive”. “I hate my wrinkles”, “I am not capable”, “I am not a good mother”, “I am a failure”, “I wouldn’t be able to apply for that promotion; I am not clever enough”, “I’m not worthy of love”, “People don’t like me”, “I can’t manage even the smallest of tasks”, “Everyone thinks I’m a loser”, “I don’t deserve that pay rise”, “No-one really wants to be my friend”.
What we are doing here is filling our mind with negativity. Imposing burden, anxiety, sorrow, stress and hardship. We are telling ourselves something so cruel. What results is we likely end up believing it! Assuming it must be true. The thoughts ruminate. Become more believable. It can be such a vicious cycle.
What we see next is behaviour change. We retract. We can become overwhelmed with sadness or anxiety. We experience self-doubt. We become less confident. We take less risk. We fear more. We might notice a strain in our relationships. Our work might suffer. We become less social, more isolated. Life can become static – with no prospect of positive change on the horizon.
How does this sit with you? What do you notice within your body as you are reading this? Do you feel any tension? If so, where does this tension sit? What do you notice in your mind? What are your thoughts? How is this making you feel?
Now look at the affirmations below. Read them aloud. Repeat them to yourself until you start to believe them, even if it is only a little. What do you notice? What do you feel? What’s happening inside your body? Bring some awareness to your thoughts and your feelings. Remain open and curious as you repeat these affirmations. Adopt some elements of self-compassion as you are going through this experience.
Positive affirmations are positive statements or phrases used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.
Positive affirmations can change our mindset. Motivate us. Fill our hearts with warmth and kindness. They can boost our self-worth and confidence. If we use them regularly, they can drive us to make positive, lasting long-term changes.
Below are six examples of evidence from empirical studies that suggests that positive self-affirmation practices can be beneficial:
Self-affirmations have been shown to decrease health-deteriorating stress (Sherman et al.2009; Critcher & Dunning, 2015);
Self-affirmations have been used effectively in interventions that led people to increase their physical behaviour (Cooke et al., 2014);
They may help us to perceive otherwise “threatening” messages with less resistance, including interventions (Logel & Cohen, 2012);
They can make us less likely to dismiss harmful health messages, responding instead with the intention to change for the better (Harris et al., 2007) and to eat more fruit and vegetables (Epton & Harris, 2008);
They have been linked positively to academic achievement by mitigating GPA decline in students who feel left out at college (Layous et al., 2017);
Self-affirmation has been demonstrated to lower stress and rumination (Koole et al., 1999; Weisenfeld et al., 2001).
How to get started?
· I would encourage you to spend some time reflecting on what affirmations would be most helpful for you.
· Write them down.
· Come up with a list of 5-10 affirmations and identify when in the day you are most committed to practice them.
· Can they form part of your morning rituals? Do you feel more comfortable saying them before/after a cup of tea or coffee? Can you see this practice fitting better into your evening routine?
· Whatever the case, there needs to be a commitment to chant these positive affirmations on a daily basis. That’s when you will start to notice some positive changes in the way you think, feel and behave.
Wishing you every success as you embark on this uplifting journey!