You know how powerful self-affirmations can be — or at least, you’ve heard.
But after reading the same stale words for over a week, you’re still not feeling it. Everyone talks about how great and effective affirmations can be for your confidence and health, but… maybe they just don’t work for you?
You’ve repeated some words while looking in the mirror and felt a little boost in self-confidence, but nothing like what online “experts” are claiming you should experience.
According to them, you should rule the world already!
So… do affirmations really work — like, according to science, not according to my own guru-y opinion?
And if they do work, how do you make them work? How do you make self-affirmations powerful and invigorating rather than stale?
Well, chances are, you’re doing it wrong (I was).
Are affirmations just smoke and mirrors… or is there science to it?
Most people stink at self-affirmations.
They write down some stuff like, “I am loved,” “I am powerful and excited about my life,” and “I am a badass.” Then they repeat those statements every day, hoping for a lift in self-confidence and inner power.
The truth is, forcing yourself to repeat those things over and over again will do nothing for the vast majority of human beings. In fact, one study found that, while affirmations focused on core values improve self-confidence and energy levels, basic mantras like the ones mentioned above could actually backfire — sometimes, saying “I’m loveable” makes you think about how unlovable you currently feel, for example.
In other words, using affirmations wrongly can harm you.
So be careful.
The good news is, if affirmations are powerful enough to harm you — if just a few words can change the way you think about yourself — then they are certainly powerful enough to help you!
And scientific research supports that conclusion.
First of all, a modern type of therapy called cognitive therapy operates on the belief that what you think directly impacts how you feel. To most of us, that’s not news. Think about someone you loved once that you’re no longer in contact with; how do you feel? Yeah. Not so good. Now think about the current love of your life and how special they are to you; feel better? Of course you do!
Our thoughts determine how we feel, almost entirely.
The only question, then, is whether affirmations can change the way we think.
And they can.
But only if you use them correctly. One study found that people who were given the choice to use self-affirmations and did experienced a boost in performance and self-confidence while participants who were forced to use affirmations for the test experienced none of those benefits.
Which indicates that if you force yourself to repeat stale words every day even when you don’t believe it’s going to help, then it won’t do a damn thing!
Remember, your thoughts determine your reality; that applies to your affirmations as well. If you believe your affirmations are going to work, they probably will work. If you think it’s a waste of time, then it’ll be a waste of time.
The author of an awesomely insightful Psychology Today article about the effectiveness of self-affirmations concludes,
“Repeated use of affirmations in a meditative state can help to rewrite messages—but only if an individual is ready and willing to manifest positive change.”
And that brings us to the final quality of an effective affirmation — to get the most benefit, you must be in a “meditative state.”
Okay, Mike. Sure. No problem. Now what the fuck does that mean?
It means that affirmations work best when you’re not thinking about what you’re saying, but instead, you’re feeling the reality of what you’re saying. If you don’t feel the emotion connected to each affirmation, then the affirmation won’t stick — you can’t just think it, you have to feel it and believe it.
For that, you’ll want to be in a meditative state — ideally, you’ll use affirmations when Alpha brainwaves are running the roost. These are the brainwaves that researchers detect when a person isn’t thinking, they’re just experiencing a situation as it is in the present moment. Alpha brainwaves occur when you jump out of plane, have your first child, or experience complete and total contentment. Beta brainwaves, on the other hand, represent thinking and cognition.
Since the goal is to get your affirmations to penetrate your subconscious — where you feel and hold your core values and beliefs — they are most effective when Alpha brainwaves are present.
But… when are Alpha brainwaves most active?
In a typical day…
- Right before you go to sleep.
- Right when you wake up.
Those are easiest times to take advantage of; when you’re slightly dazed from going to bed or when you’ve just woken up. Those are the times when your subconscious will most effectively feel and internalize any affirmations you throw at it.
(Which is why if you think “I suck” when you first wake up, you’re whole day is probably going to suck)
Here’s the TL;DR version of what this section covered.
- Vague affirmations can be unhelpful and even harmful.
- How you think determines how you feel (almost entirely).
- You must be willing and confident in the ability for affirmations to make an impact on you if they are going to be effective.
- The best time of day to use affirmations is right before you go to bed or right when you wake up (because that’s when affirmations will most easily reach your subconscious).
What are the health benefits of affirmations?
According to well-collected research by Positive Psychology, affirmations can…
- Decrease stress
- Improve physical behaviors
- Create more empowering perceptions of reality
- Improve academic achievement
- Create a healthier lifestyle
And all you have to do is say a few words every day!
What’s not to like?
Now that you understand the current research behind affirmations and also how they can change your life for the better, let’s discuss why specific affirmations are far more powerful than vague affirmations.
Specific affirmations are wayyy more powerful than vague affirmations
“I am awesome!”
“I am awesome!”
“I am awesome!”
Believe it yet?
Probably not. It’s possible that telling yourself you’re awesome enough will make you believe you’re awesome… ORRRR you can make that affirmation significantly more powerful by making it significantly more specific.
For example, “I am awesome because I wake up at 6am every day and I’m writing the book of my dreams” or “I am awesome because I exercise every day.”
Better yet, “I exercise every day and I am disciplined and committed” or “I smile at people throughout the day because I love others deeply and they love me.”
The point isn’t just to add specificity, though, but to add evidence of what you’re claiming. You see, affirmations are most powerful when you reinforce healthy beliefs on the back of actions you’re already taking.
If you just say “I’m disciplined and committed,” your mind is going to immediately remind you of times when you weren’t disciplined and committed to disprove your affirmation.
Say, “I am disciplined and committed.”
Now your mind is hollering about times that you weren’t disciplined and committed.
Okay — that doesn’t work very well.
Let’s try something more specific. Fill in the blank: “I [action you took today] and I am disciplined and committed.” You could fill in that blank with anything, even the smallest detail, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower (there are people who don’t even do that!).
“I exercised this morning and I am disciplined and committed to my goals.”
“I worked on my book today and I am disciplined and committed to finish it.”
Here are some other examples…
“I hugged my spouse today and I am loving and kind to everyone I come in contact with.”
“I didn’t get angry today and I am gracious and forgiving toward others.”
“I woke up early this morning and I am powerful and effective at everything I put my mind to.”
Now you’re starting to feel it — when you add evidence and specificity to your affirmation, your mind is able to latch on to something tangible and think.
Okay, yeah — that’s true. I did do that!
But I know what you’re thinking: “What if I didn’t do anything awesome today and I don’t have any evidence for my affirmation, Mike?!”
Well, you’d be wrong.
Start small. Did you get out of bed? Did you shower? Did you brush your teeth? Did you smile at anyone at all? Did you get to work on time? Did you make someone else smile or laugh?
You can use even the tiniest acts as evidence for your powerful affirmations. And with each backed-up affirmation you repeat, your confidence will grow and so too will your actions, which then increases the evidence you have for your affirmations. So on and so forth you can spiral yourself into awesome affirmational oblivion.
Pretty awesome, eh?
So… here are 18 powerful affirmations you can start using right now. Just fill in the blanks.
3 Powerful Affirmations For Success
I [action you took] and I accomplish anything that I set my mind to.
I [action you took] and I am disciplined and empowered to succeed.
I [action you took] and I am committed to meeting my goals.
Example: “I got to work on time and I am disciplined and empowered to succeed.”
3 Powerful Affirmations For Happiness
I [action you took] and I am experiencing immense joy.
I [action you took] and I am experiencing immense fulfillment.
I [action you took] and I am happier than I’ve ever felt before.
Example: “I made someone else smile and I am experiencing immense fulfillment.”
3 Powerful Affirmations For Healing
I [action you took] and my body is healing itself.
I [action you took] and my mind is perfectly healthy.
I [action you took] and my relationships are spectacular.
Example: “I drank veggie juice this morning and my body is healing itself.”
3 Powerful Affirmations For Self-Confidence
I [action you took] and I am confident in my own body.
I [action you took] and I am powerful.
I [action you took] and I am great at making others feel good.
Example: “I hold my head high and sit up straight and I am powerful.”
3 Powerful Affirmations For Finances
I [action you took] and I am financially abundant.
I [action you took] and I am committed to accomplishing my financial goals.
I [action you took] and I am a saver, not a spender.
Example: “I put $500 away for retirement and I am financially abundant.”
3 Powerful Affirmations For Self-Love
I [action you took] and I am beautiful as is.
I [action you took] and I treat myself with the utmost respect.
I [action you took] because I am my most important priority.
Example: “I spent an hour alone this morning because I am my most important priority.”
This is just the start.
Do whatever you need to make those affirmations more powerful for you. If they don’t resonate with you on an emotional level, then they aren’t going to do much good.
I like to add gratefulness to my affirmations, for example: “I exercised this morning and I am so grateful that my body is healthy and happy.”
But enough about me…
What makes your affirmations powerful? What works for you? Have you found a different strategy that works?
Let me know!
Mike is a writer for SUCCESS, AdWeek, and Addicted2Success. He’s been quoted on Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise in marketing and personal development. He’s also the owner of Get Your Gusto Back where he helps people reignite their inner fire.