Many self-help methods and strategies often encourage the use of positive affirmations.
We have all heard of them, but if you’ve never tried them before, the idea of using them can seem slightly awkward. The whole concept of telling yourself how awesome you are can seem strange. However, there are genuine theories and a lot of neuroscience behind this practice.
Let’s take a look!
What Are Positive Affirmations?
Motivational speakers often discuss the benefits of using positive affirmations. However, many people still don’t know what is meant by the term “positive affirmations.”
“In essence, every thought you think, and every word you say is an affirmation. You’re using affirmations in every moment, whether you know it or not. Unfortunately, much of what you affirm is negative, and that doesn’t create good experiences for you.” – Sandy Gallagher.
Positive affirmations are simple, positive statements that declare specific end goals. Although they sound rather basic, these empowering statements can have a profound positive effect on your life.
Affirmations can be both positive or negative. You can likely remember being a child and being told by a teacher or parent that you couldn’t do something because you didn’t have the ability. These negative statements have the power to stay with you in your subconscious mind. In many cases, you then reinforce them throughout your life.
Suppose a negative belief is deeply rooted within your subconscious mind. In that case, it can override positive affirmations even though you are not aware of them.
For this reason, positive affirmations do not seem to work for everyone. Their negative thought patterns are so powerful that it knocks out the effect of the positive affirmations in the first place.
The secret to getting successful results from your positive affirmations is in regular repetition and practice. Affirming statements about yourself can encourage your brain to take these positive affirmations as fact.
When you genuinely believe you can do something, your actions often follow.
People use positive affirmations to gain motivation, encourage positive changes in their lives, or boost their self-esteem.
Positive affirmations have a significant effect on those who frequently find themselves getting caught up in negative self-talk. With practice, you can replace these subconscious patterns with a more positive narrative.
From entrepreneurs and top salespeople to bestselling authors, many successful people have figured out that using willpower alone to power their success isn’t enough.
The Science Behind the Positive Affirmations
Just like many other positive psychology concepts, the roots of positive affirmations are science-based.
One of the best-known and most well-established theories about positive affirmations is the self-affirmation theory by Claude Steele.
According to this theory, self-affirmation is triggered by threatening information: those that confront our adequacy or integrity. The purpose of self-affirmations is to restore the perception of ourselves as adequate, moral, competent, reasonable, coherent, capable of free choice, and able to control important outcomes, and so on.
We can accomplish this through explanation, rationalization, and action.
Positive affirmations are about coping with the threat to our self-image rather than dealing with the threat itself.
Self-affirmations are more than just dealing with threats. They help us to build a positive narrative of our self-identity. It’s a flexible concept of ourselves taking various roles in life: sons, daughters, parents, students, workers, friends, etc. From each of these roles, we have a different definition of success.
Positive Affirmations – The Facts
In 2014 there was a comprehensive review of research on positive affirmations. The authors came up with some interesting conclusions:
Self-affirmations can help us deal with events that threaten our integrity, performance, and personal development.
They are usually about rethinking our core values.
Affirmations can help improve education, health, and relationships.
The benefits of using positive affirmations can continue for months or even years.
In 2016 a group of researchers carried out a study to determine whether there is a neural mechanism associated with self-affirmations.
The test subjects in this study were divided into two random groups and provided with a task. After completing the job, the first group received affirmations, while the other group did not. The test subject’s brain functions were monitored closely during the experiment using an fMRI machine.
The results of this study concluded there are numerous neural pathways whereby activation increases whenever we use affirmations. These neural pathways are also responsible for processing self-related information and values, confirming that affirmations are all about verifying our positive identities.
Sandy Gallagher: How to Create Positive Affirmations that Work
Claude M.Steele: The Psychology of Self-Affirmation: Sustaining the Integrity of the Self