Affirmations don’t have to be fluffy.
If you are just here for the pictures (don’t worry, no one is judging) scroll on down to the bottom. I’ve put all the affirmations in their large original sizes, just click and the gallery will open them up, and you can save the ones you like.
In all of the tools that I have used throughout my life, affirmations have been one of the most useful. There is a little problem, though — I’m a bit of a cynic and skeptic, and I have a matter-of-fact mind when it comes to my state and the world around me. There are a lot of great and fascinating resources for affirmations out there – but I find nearly all of them use language that is far too fluffy for me. I can’t take them seriously, or convince myself that I believe the statements – and this makes them completely ineffective.
I’m a sucker for science-based tools and resources; with a little supportive truth, I’m willing to try just about anything. Meditation and mindfulness, awesome, I’m in – there’s proof out the wazu! Homeopathy? Not my jam. Do I sometimes carry around stones and crystals? Yup – but I’m using them as anchors to thoughts and feelings I wish to amplify – not because I believe the frequency at which they vibrate affects me at a cellular level. Ouf, now that’s cleared up, let’s dive into how to leverage positive thought 🌱
We are all using affirmations anyway.
Whether you are deliberately choosing statements to set your intentions or not – your self-talk does affect how you interpret the world around you. Maybe you have a cranky old man (you know, the one shaking his broom at the neighborhood kids from his front porch) style of voice that, criticizes your every move. Maybe you have a maniacal chipmunk voice encouraging you to dart around. Maybe. I don’t know you.
But I do know you have an inner narrator.
Many of the narrator’s default phrases are not the most useful. The adage, “you are your own worst critic,” is entirely accurate. For the most part, left to its own devices, the narrator will use neutral-to-negative language to set up your expectations towards interactions, events and your performance. And sometimes that’s ok; channeled well it can work as great nudges to push your performance further. But we don’t give enough credit to radical acts of self-love, and the importance of our self-talk.
So if you are a tinge jaded; if you are a dash cynical or wholeheartedly skeptical, forget a bit of what you think you know about affirmations – they aren’t strictly new-age fluff. Put on your fanciest reasoning cap, and ponder along with me here.
Affirmations as a tool in psychology.
Positive affirmations are used in many areas of psychology, mindfulness and other therapeutic practices because they are hugely useful when we approach them correctly. There have been some interesting studies done that show people who wrote self-affirming statements, or completed activities that affirmed their self-integrity were less defensive and more accepting of information that was potentially threatening. Put another way, those who took a few minutes to place some attention and intention around their worth and values, were able to withstand their values and self-worth being challenged with more grace.
Many moons ago, my pain therapist introduced me to cognitive behavioral therapy; affirmations were an integral part of re-wiring the parts of my mind that were coping with the pain. To this day, it’s still one of the most useful tools that I have. One of the exercises would look something like recognizing that I was tensing against the pain, visualizing a stop sign, and repeating a statement like, “I am safe, I accept the pain.” The goal was to redirect the freight train that barreled along fighting the pain signals and guide it to a more useful path.
Our thinking and self-talk are learned behaviors.
We can learn to modify our behavior. Humans are pattern recognition machines, and we are delightfully privileged to be able to alter the patterns that we are searching for. One way to think of affirmations is to set ourselves up for positive pattern recognition intentionally. Instead of starting a day convinced it’s going to turn to shit, our partner or boss are going to yell at us – and then continuing through the day looking for inputs and signals that confirm that pattern search; we could try looking for a different pattern.
Our minds are rife with cognitive distortions, but we also have incredible power over this! I highly recommend reading about the distortions here and examining if there are any you may fall prey to. If so, read through the list again and see if you can picture how practicing some positive, present tense statements might have an impact.
There is a lot of power in a few positive thoughts. For the jaded cranky few though, I laugh trying to picture them eagerly buying into it as they chant to themselves “I embody love and light.” It’s just a bit…much. There’s a lot of benefit to the sentiment, though! Personally, I have to reign them in a bit, to something that I feel I can say with conviction.
Our reality really is formed by our thoughts.
A few keys to get started.
- Affirmations are most effective when used in the first person, present tense, with an authoritative spin. Think “I will recover” versus “Anyone can recover.” The nuances are important.
- Try to avoid negative words, instead, frame everything in a positive light.
- They work best when approached as statements of definitive truth. (sometimes this is the hardest part, as when we first begin, we are effectively trying to convince ourselves of something.)
- If the definitive statement feels like an outright lie, don’t force it, walk it back. – “I love my body,” might simply be untrue, so maybe, “I am learning to love my body,” is the right version for now. Eventually, you’ll be able to work it until the definitive is true. There’s a good breakdown of the benefits of this approach in this post my MindValley
- You’ll need to choose just one or two to start and repeat them often. For a few minutes in the morning, again in the afternoon, and just before you go to bed at night. There is no such thing as too often. Try different times, different places, out loud, on paper, with a smile, when you are frowning. Most importantly, speak them as soon as you become aware you are hopping on a hamster wheel of defeating self-talk.
- Take this list as something to brainstorm with. Customizing the affirmations and making them your own will only make them better!
Don’t forget – practice makes perfect. It is better to try committing to using them for at least two weeks, this way you’ll really be able to tell how it’s working for you. Try not to expect results right away!