You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and doggone it, people like you! Even if you’re not Stuart Smalley, you can use morning affirmations to improve your life. It’s not hokum—positive affirmations have been scientifically proven to trigger reward centers in the brain, and multiple studies have shown that they have a healthy, long-term effect on practitioners. When we set positive affirmations, we’re investing in our own self-worth and love. In turn, that enables a more positive mindset, so that when things go wrong, we feel more empowered and able to roll with the punches.
Not convinced yet? Read on to find out what scientists and aficionados say about incorporating daily affirmations.
Affirmations help you believe in your own adequacy
“Adequate” might sound like a less-than-stellar goal. On the other hand, when you consider how much of your own self-talk is negative, it might be more of a dramatic change than you realize. If you’re someone who beats themselves up for the slightest thing, believing that you have the tools to handle a situation might be a bit of a leap—at least at first.
Think of it this way: you like to be the hero of your own story, don’t you? But when something comes up that challenges that narrative, it’s easy to fixate on it. Maybe your spouse, frustrated with the fact that you leave your dirty socks everywhere but the hamper, told you that you’re lazy. Now there’s a competing narrative. You might rush to point out that you work 12-hour shifts regularly and the hamper is so far away, but what does that really accomplish? It doesn’t change the fact that you’ve cut corners on something that frustrates your spouse. If you pride yourself on your work ethic, the “lazy” accusation can cut to the quick.
Self-affirmations work best when they pertain to values you hold dear. According to a study in the Annual Review of Psychology, “Self-affirmation interventions typically have people write about core personal values. The interventions bring about a more expansive view of the self and its resources, weakening the implications of a threat for personal integrity. Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years.”
In other words, affirmations help you realize that you’re entirely capable of picking up those dirty socks and working 12-hour shifts. When you shift your mindset, it’s easier to shift your behaviors.
Lie to yourself
That’s all well and good, but what if you struggle with self-esteem, making friends or other things that depend on or are heavily affected by outside feedback? If you’re having a hard time making new friends in a new town, it can be hard to affirm, “I make friends easily.” It might seem like you’re lying to yourself—hasn’t the objective evidence shown that you do not, in fact, make friends easily?
This is one time in which lying to yourself is completely okay. That’s because—again—it’s a tool to shift your mindset. If you focus on how you’re friendless and alone all the time, you’re going to act like someone who is friendless and alone. Other people will pick up on that and treat you accordingly. On the other hand, if you tell yourself, “I make friends easily,” you’ll focus on ways that you can make friends. You’re more likely to take chances and talk to people, which can lead to friendships. You’re fixating on your values and new possibilities, rather than beating yourself up.
They’re a tool, not a magic trick
Of course, you can’t expect that affirmations alone will do the trick. You still have to change your behaviors to align with those affirmations—you can’t say “I make friends easily” and sit isolated in your home waiting for the adoring hordes to show up. Similarly, saying “I am in good health” isn’t going to do much if you follow it up with a half-gallon of ice cream washed down by a fifth of bourbon. But if you struggle with health-related anxiety, that affirmation can empower you to believe your efforts are, well, adequate.
To figure out which affirmations will work best for you, think about the things you want to change and which of your personal values they include. Keep it simple and present tense—“I am open to incorporating affirmations into my routine,” perhaps—and get ready to change the way you live your life.