Pathways for positivity: Do affirmations work?

If your best friend talked to you the way you sometimes talk to yourself, you’d likely be searching for a new bestie. We often say the most terrible, unkind, and hurtful things to ourselves—things we’d never say to someone we care about. “You’re not good enough.” “You look ugly.” “No one likes you.” “You’ll never land that job.”

There are many reasons our inner critic chimes up: lack of confidence, deep-rooted childhood hurts, being bullied, grief, low self-esteem, worry or stress. After a while, this way of thinking becomes the norm. And although it’s natural to be hard on ourselves occasionally and point out the things we’d like to change, (which can even drive us to improve when we do it in a constructive, supported way) resorting to internal name-calling and self-loathing is not the best approach to curating a happy, fulfilling life.

The simple fact is, you’ll never spend more time with anyone, ever, than you will with yourself. You, take you, wherever you go! Learning to treat yourself with loving-kindness and compassion will reap massive benefits in all areas of your life. Everything from boosting emotional resilience to fostering healthier relationships. It also increases motivation, productivity, and inner satisfaction, while reducing stress and worry.

Silencing the inner narrator isn’t always easy; for some, it’s a constant background noise, an open app running in your mind, a nervous energy, continually pointing out the things you don’t like about you. However, there are techniques you can use to shift the chatter from negative and unhelpful to purposeful and encouraging.

One of the simplest ways to turn your thoughts in your favour is to introduce positive affirmations. If you’ve spent a lifetime repeating negative affirmations of not being good enough and it’s impacting your wellbeing, relationships and your work then it’s time to try something new…

Positive affirmations are short, uplifting phrases that people say to themselves out loud to help generate improved thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.

Social psychologists have been doing research on self-affirmation theory for more than 40 years. Researchers have found that self-affirmation can stimulate the areas in our brains that make us more likely to affect beneficial changes in our health and wellbeing. Affirmations have been used to successfully treat people with low self-esteem, depression, and other mental health conditions.

For any affirmation to be effective, it must resonate with the person saying it. Here’s one I often use, especially when dealing with a tech issue: “I’m an intelligent person; I can figure this out.” I used to think, “Why can’t I do this? I must be stupid; a five-year-old could do it.”

Now, I repeat my affirmation aloud, take a deep breath, and say, “I’m an intelligent person; I can figure this out.” If I still can’t resolve it, my backup affirmation is, “I’m an intelligent person, and intelligent people know when to ask for help,” which is much better than my old thought, “Oh no, I don’t want to ask for help; what if people think I’m stupid?” Since I began using this affirmation, I’m a lot kinder to myself, less stressed, and if I do have to ask for assistance, I’m completely unbothered, it’s ok to ask for help!

Affirmations are most effective when spoken aloud, but another method is to write them down and read them several times a day, particularly when you wake up and before you go to bed, allowing them to filter into your mind. Some people find that saying their affirmations while looking in a mirror enhances the effect. Choose a method that works for you and stay consistent. Over time, these affirmations will become automatic positive thoughts and internal responses to your situations. For instance, if you’ve been working on boosting your confidence using the affirmation, “I am confident and relaxed,” you might feel more assured in social situations as a result of regularly affirming this belief.

Although it may seem hard to believe, these short phrases can significantly change how we perceive ourselves and our surroundings, but don’t just take my word for it. Choose an affirmation and try it for yourself, what have you got to lose?


Shannon Humphrey is a First Aid for Mental Health Instructor – www.pathwaysfor


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