Clear Yo Mind
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Clear Yo Mind

MENTAL HEALTH

Positive Affirmations: Woo-woo or Science?

How positive affirmations actually work and how we can use them to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts and rewrite them.

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

“Every word you say is a blueprint that your mind, body, and psyche want to make a reality.”

— Marisa Peer

I became acquainted with positive affirmations about ten years ago. I was in a book store, browsing and looking at books covers. Until one caught my attention. It was a book by Lisa Nichols, called ‘No matter what’ . I remembered Lisa from the well-known movie ‘The Secret’ so I started skimming the book and got to a page that was talking about the incessant mind chatter and how to imagine one has a button we can press and change the tape to positive self-talk.

Later on that year, I also stumbled upon Louise Hay’s book ‘How to heal your life’ in which she was talking about the power of positive affirmations and the huge impact they had on her life.

I started incorporating positive daily affirmations in my life and although it has been a slow process, I was able to see results in my way of thinking, health, and relationships. I also recommend them to my clients and many have definitely noticed a significantly positive improvement in their self-talk as well as other aspects of their lives.

Who was Louise Hay?

Louise Hay was a teacher, an author, a lecturer, and a beloved soul by many. In the 1970s, Hay was diagnosed with what medical professionals called irreversible cervical cancer, and as a result, she began looking into non-medical healing alternatives. In doing so, she created an approach that combined visualization, forgiveness, psychotherapy, and dietary health. She lived up to 90 years old inspiring millions of people with her teachings and wisdom.

Louise Hay was admin about the fact that most of our illnesses and limitations come from negative self-talk. And that many people are not even aware of the influence this negative self-talk has in all the areas of their lives.

It all sounds nice and easy if your main channel of communication is predominantly emotional. But what if you are more cognitively inclined? You might dismiss positive affirmations thinking they are some kind of New Age woo-woo and that they’ll never work for you. But let me tell you, there is actual science behind it.

Positive affirmations are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts which stem from maladaptive narratives we have been telling ourselves for the longest time.

According to Positive Psychology.com, one of the key psychological theories behind positive affirmations is self-affirmation theory. This means that we can preserve our integrity by affirming our beliefs in a positive way.

“Self-integrity relates to our global self-efficacy — our perceived ability to control moral outcomes and respond flexibly when our self-concept is threatened”

— Cohen & Sherman, 2014

Through self-affirmation, we keep a global narrative about ourselves that makes up our self-identity. Self-affirmations make our self-identity more flexible. We can see ourselves as adopting a range of different identities and roles. If our identity is flexible, we can adapt much better to different situations and environments. It’s about an overall feeling of being competent and adequate.

There is also neuroscientific research done to back the scientific stand of positive affirmations.

According to Positive Psychology.com, there is MRI evidence suggesting that certain neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks (Cascio et al., 2016).

When we choose to practice positive affirmations, we’re better able to view “otherwise-threatening information as more self-relevant and valuable”.

According to a research titled ‘Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation’, self-affirmations are acts that affirm one’s self-worth, often by having individuals reflect on core values, which may give individuals a broader view of the self.

The benefits of positive affirmations:

  1. They have been shown to decrease health-deteriorating stress.
  2. They have been used effectively in interventions that led people to increase their physical behavior.
  3. They can increase self-esteem and self-worth.
  4. They can reduce anxiety levels, decrease rumination time and improve wellbeing.
  5. They can act as catalysts in motivating us towards a more health-oriented approach to life.
  6. They can make us more resilient to difficulties and help us develop better coping mechanisms when faced with challenges.

How and when should we practice the affirmations?

The how: We can either write them down, use them as screensavers, record them using our own voice or listen to ones already available, like those on Youtube for instance.

Regarding the when: it’s been scientifically proven that the best time to read and state our affirmations is the last thing we do at night right before going to bed or the first thing we do as we wake up.

However, if you are more audio rather than visually inclined, you can then listen to your favorite affirmations just as you’re about to fall asleep or first thing in the morning just as you’re waking up, letting them play in the background or using your headphones.

This is the most optimal time to state our affirmations because our brain is in the barely conscious state, known as Theta brain waves. This is the border between the conscious and subconscious. While in the theta state, we’re withdrawn from the external world and focused on our internal signals.

It is said that a sense of deep spiritual connection and unity with the universe can be experienced whilst we are in Theta. Our mind’s most deep-seated programs are at Theta and it is where we can experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, profound creativity, and exceptional insight. Theta brain waves are present during deep meditation and light sleep, including the all-important REM dream state.

It’s the mental state where you consciously create your reality.

According to Dr. Bruce Lipton, during Theta our mind is capable of deep and profound learning as we tend to absorb whatever material we’re presented with, in a totally accepting and uncritical fashion.

It is the best time to rewire our neuronal pathways and to rewrite the old programs that are no longer serving us. In the theta state, we are like a sponge, absorbing the information without the conscious mind interfering in the process.

That's why is very important to be mindful of which information we are listening to whilst on the verge of falling asleep.

Has it ever happened to you to fall asleep whilst watching the news on TV and then wake up agitated and irritated? Well, that’s because whilst you were on the verge of sleeping your subconscious was processing all that negative information. So I can’t stress strongly enough the importance of listening to positive and uplifting words before going to bed. The same goes for when you wake up.

Of course, you can also listen to positive affirmations in the background or repeat them out loud like mantras whenever you feel the need to. The ideal time should be 21 days in a row to be able to notice some changes.

Also, it is very important to find or create your own affirmations that are in tune with your core values.

Some of my favorite Louise Hay quotes are:

  1. I have come to this planet to learn to love myself more and to share that love with all those around me.
  2. All is well in my world. Everything is working out for my highest good. Out of this situation, only good will come. I am safe!
  3. It’s only a thought, and a thought can be changed.
  4. I am in the process of positive change.
  5. As I say yes to life, life says yes to me.
  6. I am deeply fulfilled by all that I do.
  7. Life supports me in every possible way.
  8. My day begins and ends with gratitude.
  9. I listen with love to my body’s messages.
  10. I always work with and for wonderful people. I love my job.
  11. I know that old, negative patterns no longer limit me. I let them go with ease.
  12. I honor who I am.
  13. I choose to see clearly with the eyes of love.

If you resonate with Louise Hay’s affirmations, you can find more inspiration here.

Takeaways

  1. There is scientific proof that positive affirmations can help us challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts and rewire them.
  2. They can give us a broader sense of self and make us more resilient in the face of adversity.
  3. The best time to use affirmations is right before going to bed and first thing in the morning whilst in the theta state.
  4. It is very important to find or create your own affirmations that are in tune with your core values.

Do you use positive affirmations in your daily life? If so, how have they helped you so far?

Thank you for reading! I appreciate you!

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Sorina Raluca Băbău

Sorina Raluca Băbău

Clinical Psychologist. Integrative Psychotherapist. Writer. Dreamer. Traveler. Pet lover. Avid reader. Chocolate's biggest fan. Yoga practitioner.