Hello I’m so glad you’re here!
I’m really excited to share this particular blog post with you because I believe that practicing self-affirmation can be a tool that is incredibly beneficial for positive self-development.
Read on to find out what exactly self-affirmation is, what it does to your brain, and how you can practice it yourself.
So firstly, what is self-affirmation?
Put simply, self-affirmation is an act that affirms your own self-worth, which most of the time entails you reflecting on and setting your core values.
A broad and fluffy definition, right? If we’re speaking in practical terms on what self-affirmation looks like, well, that could be a number of things. Looking in a mirror and reciting to yourself that you are a ‘good person’ is self-affirmation, a big accomplishment such as finishing a degree is self-affirmation, and the realization that despite being overwhelmed by the daily grind you still find time for your family (or any other life aspect which you place importance on) is also a form of self-affirmation. I could go on, but the self-affirmation practice that I am focusing on here today is the conscious and deliberate type, just like in the first mirror example, but more on that later.
Can talking to yourself in positive terms really improve your life? YES!
How? It all comes down to cognitive patterns in the brain.
It is fact that the more often a chain of neurons fire together, the more that particular chain becomes strengthened and easier to recall again. Therefore, if you tell yourself over and over again that you are a good person, the particular chain of neurons that stores that thought of yours will be strengthened and easier to recall over time. It is really important to build up these thought patterns as it better equips us to deal with stressful situations. For example, have you ever been yelled at by your boss (or “sternly talked to”) and the whole scenario has left you feeling really deflated and almost worthless? Actively practicing self-affirmation can actually “reduce reactivity to the threat and protect overall psychological wellbeing”1. Practicing self-affirmation, basically, is a form of brain-training that equips you to better cope with “threats” to your self-worth and to be less affected by them.
Guess what? It gets even more interesting!
It has been shown through numerous studies (like here and here) that imagining positive future scenarios benefits your psychological wellbeing, and actually this thought process engages the same part of the brain as self-affirmation. This study here has found evidence to suggest that imagining a positive future in combination with self-affirmation can produce results greater than the sum of its parts. Combining these practices has proven much more valuable for self-development than past-orientated self-affirmation or present self-affirmation.
It all sounds pretty fantastic right? We can train our brains to be better at dealing with stressful or negative situations in our day to day, and in a really simple way too! Keep reading to find out a super simple way to incorporate self-affirmation into your life. I’ve broken it down into a step by step process so you can’t go wrong! This is a self-affirmation process which I use for my personal benefit, and it’s certainly not the only way to practice self-affirmation, but I can certainly vouch that it’s a good one ;)
A guide to incorporating self-affirmation into your life
For this practice, you’re going to need a pen and paper
Make a list of all of the important parts of your life. (p.s. There are no wrong answers!)
Below is my list, which you are more than welcome to use as a guide.
Did any of you notice that money is on my list? Many people don’t want to admit that money is important to them because they want to be perceived as greedy or capitalistic, but let’s be real here guys. If you’re functioning within society then you need money to survive. That’s why I’ve listed it as an important aspect of my life. Don’t be shy about being honest with yourself.
Now, under each category that you just created in step one, write down some goals relating to each aspect. There are no rules on how many goals you should have, but I like to limit myself to 5 goals per category so that I don’t get too overwhelmed! :P
Below are just a few examples of goals I would like to achieve under each of my categories.
Now I want you to re-write everything you have just written down, but in the present tense!
The purpose of this is to turn what is essentially a daydream or far-off goal into an affirmation. Into something much more tangible and achievable.
Recite your affirmations aloud (to yourself) on a regular basis. Again, there are no strict rules with regularity. If you’re a real go-getter you can recite them every day, or just once a week or once every few weeks. Do what works for you. Additionally, I like to recite my affirmations aloud so that my eyes don’t get lazy and just skim the words, but if you’re super good at concentrating whilst reading then by all means just read the affirmations in your head.
Repeat steps one – four when you feel like your self-development trajectory has changed. When you feel like all the affirmations on your list are already ingrained behaviours in your psyche then it’s time to make a new list! For some this could be weekly, for some, yearly. There’s no right way to do this stuff, you’ve gotta listen to yourself and what you need.
And for some, maybe this practice doesn’t do you any good at all, and if that’s the case then please don’t make yourself repeat a task that isn’t beneficial.
And for those of you who are unsure whether this practice is having any effect, then maybe stick it out a little while longer. For me personally, I didn’t notice any immediate changes in how I processed information. I did, however, gradually notice changes where on days that I do recite my morning affirmations, the rest of that day unfolds in a manner where I feel capable and almost in charge of my surroundings, and certainly I have a much greater sense of being able confidently cope with negative situations that do come my way.
Thanks so much for reading this whole article and I hope you’ve found it enlightening and inspiring. Do you already practice self-affirmations? Have you been trying out the method I’ve detailed above? I would really love to know what it’s done for you! Let me know in the comments.
1: Cassio, C. Et. Al. (2016). Self-Affirmation Activates Brain Systems Associated with Self-Related Processing and Reward and is Reinforced by Future Orientation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(4), 622.