When done well, affirmations can provide an incredibly powerful nudge in the right direction. We all know how we feel when we read one that resonates with us - it taps into a truth we know is already there.
For the sceptics, Ronald Alexander, a mind-body psychotherapist writing for HuffPost says: “An affirmation can work because it has the ability to program your mind into believing the stated concept.”
Dr Carmen Harra agrees. “Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains. Much like exercise, they raise the level of feel-good hormones and push our brains to form new clusters of “positive thought” neurons. In the sequence of thought-speech-action, affirmations play an integral role by breaking patterns of negative thoughts, negative speech, and, in turn, negative actions.”
Where affirmations really work is when dealing with failure, usually because our self-confidence takes a bit of a knock. One of the founders of self-help Louise Hay, who sadly passed away this year, describes it as opening a door, ‘a beginning point to the path of change’.
Talking specifically about failure, Alexander says: “When we fear failure, we tend to overestimate the risk we’re taking and imagine the worst possible scenario — the emotional equivalent of our primary caretakers deserting us. What we picture is so dreadful that we convince ourselves that we shouldn’t even try to change.” He says that affirmations can help reverse this and be a powerful step to creating change.
Sophie Scott, editor-in-chief of Balance magazine finds that it also helps to calm the mind. Talking to HuffPost UK, she says: “As humans, we are naturally programmed with negativity bias, meaning we need to hear five positives for every negative. Affirmations are a powerful way to refocus the mind on optimistic, useful and supportive thoughts.”
Although sharing and tagging friends on affirmations on social media is one of the most common ways to engage with them, one of the most effective ways is to say them out loud.
Scott says: “Mantras often get a bad rap - us Brits don’t tend to feel comfortable with self-praise. But daily affirmations, especially when spoken in front of the mirror (for extra cringe) can have a potent effect on your life. It works a bit like muscle memory. Say it until you believe it.”
On the flipside, there are such things as negative affirmations. For instance telling a friend how fat you think you are, or telling yourself that you’ll never get that job. Louise Hay said: “Realise that every complaint is an affirmation of something you think you don’t want in your life. Every time you get angry, you’re affirming that you want more anger in your life. Every time you feel like a victim, you’re affirming that you want to continue to feel like a victim.”
According to Louise Hay, it’s not enough though to just say affirmations out loud or share them on social media. “The secret to having your affirmations work quickly and consistently is to prepare an atmosphere for them to grow in. Affirmations are like seeds planted in soil. Poor soil, poor growth. Rich soil, abundant growth. The more you choose to think thoughts that make you feel good, the quicker the affirmations work.”
Here are some great affirmations that help overcome failure.