I know many people have encountered the term ‘affirmation’ at least once somewhere or probably multiple times in a selfhelp book. It is not uncommon these days to find people on social media saying things like “I am affirming this or that into my life.”
However, at surface level for someone that has never heard of this concept before, I do understand the utter confusion in decoding what it is all about.
Affirmation is a new age term which can be looked at as positive self-thinking and self-empowerment usually in the form of carefully formatted statements that should be repeated and written down by oneself frequently. Our brains are extremely complicated but you might be surprised by how much control we have over their programming.
If for a moment you try to think of affirmations as wishful thinking, instead try thinking about it like this: Many of us do repetitive physical exercises to improve our physical wellness and it is in this same manner in which affirmations enable our brains to believe whatever we tell them to or not to.
This self-talk poses dramatic changes in all aspects of our lives as a result of the affirmations likely working for or against us and this means we are supposed to design, so to say, our affirmations and align them with our ideas or goals to navigate life better. In short, it is a process of self-moulding of one’s thoughts and emotions in order to create a life you want.
Change core beliefs
As a matter of fact, most of us tend to have negative thoughts most of the time arising from our past. The problem is that these negative thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies which can potentially drag down our personal lives, careers and relationships.
As such, positive self-affirmation and repetition of certain statements to our unconscious mind, we are able to change our core beliefs about ourselves. This helps reshape our identities or self-concepts over time and promotes competence in different spheres of our lives. Self-affirmations are not magic. Interestingly, there is a fair amount of neuroscience behind this practice. Studies in psychology indicate our brains have two semi-independent, largely separate mental systems. Let me try and break this down. First is the unconscious mind, which is the massive computing and storage part of our brains. It is constantly operating to solve our problems.
It is involuntary, automatic and largely driven by emotions and so is impulsive in nature. This is where execution of our habits takes place. This part of the brain favours short-term thinking and it works well for basic survival but not so much for systemic poor habits and chronic negative thinking.
On the other hand is the conscious mind, which is the one responsible for active, deliberate mental activity that can impose its goals on the unconscious mind. More thoughtful analysis happens here, which can override automatic routines or thought patterns from the unconscious mind.
This can happen in form of reflection, self-awareness, mindfulness and planning, from which points we are able to reprogramme our thinking patterns. However, since the process is high power and energy consuming, it is never active for long. This is why the practice of affirmation ought to be regular for it to be effective.
We are blessed with the ability to say these positive self-affirmations to ourselves and so this can be made a consistent practice as it is proven that with a sustained period, one’s brain is rewired to their desired effects. Affirmations can be recited, said out loud and even better, in front of a mirror or written in a journal daily. Jotting down core personal values can potentially guide in formulating these affirmations.
The benefits of this practice as I have been elaborating are massive and I believe it is one of the most important tools for each of us to learn about and master. Besides completely changing ones thought patterns so that overtime we think and act how we would like, affirmations also aid in transforming how one thinks and feels, which is critical in challenging and defeating self-sabotaging or limiting beliefs.
If, for example, for long you have convinced yourself you cannot achieve something and decide to start affirming otherwise, you will find changes in how you think and feel about yourself over time, which will encourage action necessary for the change.
Behaviourists speak of self-efficacy- a person’s perceived ability to control their outcomes. In affirming the ability to do something, one gets the confidence and motivation to take on particular tasks, which boosts their self-esteem, prompting positive change in one’s life.
Perhaps the greatest of these benefits is how affirmation does wonders in self-discipline as we continue affirming to ourselves repetitively. This in turn increases feelings of self-worth and propels people to work towards their full potential.
Lastly, affirmations also mitigate the effects of stress. By taking on the practice of positive self-affirmation, we build an optimism mindset, the kind that can transform our lives to their finest quality and greater heights.