What are Positive Affirmations (+ How to Use Them)

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I’ve spoken about my affirmation practice numerous times on Instagram and Twitter because using affirmations has changed my life. While it is a common practice and something familiar to me – I know that not many people truly know what affirmations are – let alone how to use them. Saying “my affirmation practice” is vague so I want to elaborate on what are affirmations and how to use them in this simple, yet informative, guide to affirmations. 

Chances are, if you’ve peeked into different spiritual communities or have researched nearly anything to do with self-help, you’ve likely heard about “positive affirmations”. 

What Are Affirmations?

The most literal, dictionary.com, definitions of affirmations are as follows:

  1. the act or an instance of affirming; state of being affirmed.
  2. the assertion that something exists or is true.
  3. something that is affirmed; a statement or proposition that is declared to be true.

Affirmations, as a practice, are all those definitions and so much more. A positive affirmation practice consists of repeating statements, comprised of compelling words, with the intention to motivate, inspire, challenge, and push you to higher potential.

Some Examples of Affirmations are:

  1. I am powerful.
  2. I am confident.
  3. I am strong.
  4. I am getting better and better each day.
  5. I am in charge of my life.

Affirmations, in my opinion, are one of the quickest and easiest ways to begin to shift from a negative mindset to a positive mindset by re-programming the way we think. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (likely hundreds of times) when you can control your thoughts – you can control your world. 

How Do Affirmations Work?

We all have negative thoughts, ideologies, and belief patterns – we’re human and none of us are perfect. However, sometimes those negative thoughts and patterns can hold us back from positive change and growth. Many of these ideologies are deeply engrained into our subconscious and affirmations work by beginning to reprogram those deep subconscious thought patterns. 

Affirmations started to work for me towards the end of 2020. I had lost the career in travel that I spent years building, found myself in a dead-end relationship with a dead-beat and at the time my brother was struggling with heroin addiction (if you or a family member has struggled with addiction – you know, as I do, that the addiction affects the whole family). To say I was in a low point in my life would be a massive understatement. However, all those things were circumstantial and weren’t a reflection of who I really was. I didn’t choose for travel to get shut down causing me to lose my career, it wasn’t my fault that the guy I was dating portrayed himself to be someone he wasn’t, and my brother’s addiction (and the strain on my family at the time) wasn’t because of me.

I chose to turn to an affirmation practice to remind myself, reaffirm to myself, of all the good things I know to be true about myself, my work, myself in relationships (both romantic, platonic, and familial). 

Fast forward two years: I am grateful that I no longer have that career in travel, I am grateful that it didn’t work out with the guy I was dating, and my brother successfully completed a rehab program and is coming up on his two-year anniversary of sobriety. Subsequently, my family and I are in the best place we’ve ever been in!

Now, do I equate all the good things that have happened in the last two years to affirmations? Not necessarily. However, I do attribute my mindset about where I am and where I’m going to my affirmation practice. I don’t know where my mind might have gone if I hadn’t chosen to commit to a daily affirmation practice at the end of 2020. 

How to Use Affirmations

There are heaps of different ways to utilize an affirmation practice. Each person is different so the way that affirmations work for one person may not work for another, and vice versa. To get affirmations to work for you – you must work on your affirmations. My suggestion is to commit to each of the below methods for a few consecutive days and find what feels best for you.

Writing Affirmations Down

The first method for affirmations is: writing them down. I like this method because I’ve always loved to write. I still hand write out my schedule, my task-lists and to-do’s. I even hand write outlines for all the articles I write, before finalizing them on a computer. Writing down your affirmations is as simple as getting a pen and a piece of paper and, you guessed it, writing them down.

Listening to Affirmations

Next up is listening to affirmations as a meditation. There are heaps of YouTube videos, soundtracks and apps that cater to meditative affirmations for all different types of topics. Listening to affirmations can be a great practice first thing in the morning, while in the car or on public transportation, in the shower or even before bed. You can also pre-record yourself speaking affirmations of your choice and listen to your own voice speaking affirmations, for added effect.

Speaking Affirmations Out Loud

Speaking affirmations out loud is something that I like to utilize when I have a big meeting or big pitch for a client coming up. Some suggest repeating different affirmations, aloud, in the mirror – while gazing into your own eyes. 

Reading Affirmations

Reading affirmations is another effective way to get in an affirmation practice. There are so many articles that list different affirmations for nearly any and every topic that you can think of. Reading along with those affirmations can be an effective way to begin to change your mindset.

Use an Affirmation App

I love the “I AM” iPhone app for affirmations (they also have an android version). I set my app to hourly notifications as well as have a widget at the top of my home screen on my phone. I like the app notifications because as the day goes on there can be so many things thrown at me that may have negativity creeping into my mindset. The I AM notifications help me to stay grounded in what I know to be true about myself– not what I may be feeling because of a difficult day or situation. 

Affirmation Pro-Tips

Acknowledge Hardship + Avoid Toxic Positivity 

Toxic positivity is the abuse of positivity to avoid or deny acknowledging difficult feelings, emotions, and situations. To make your positive affirmations work for you – you can’t avoid your hardships or “affirm” them away. 

Avoid “Negatives” in your Positive Affirmations

While we want to avoid toxic positivity – we also want to avoid bringing negatives into our positive affirmation practice. The purpose of affirmations is to uplift and encourage you so avoid any statements that make you feel down on yourself or unhappy. 

Place Skepticism to the Backseat 

Affirmations can feel, for lack of a better way to say it, corny. Especially at first. Affirmations may also feel too easy and as if these simple statements can’t have such a strong positive impact on your mental and emotional well-being. Place your skepticism in the backseat or, better yet, lock it in the trunk. Affirmations will only work if you truly believe in them. 

Add Action to your Affirmations 

While affirmations are great to shift your mindset – they can’t do all the work for you. Use your affirmations to give you a boost of confidence and then use that confidence to put some action in place.

Does your affirmation practice look similar to mine or do you have your own unique way of practicing affirmations? I’d also love to know what some of your favorite affirmations are!

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