You probably remember “Stuart Smalley”, the fictional character invented and performed by Al Franken on Saturday Night Live. He brought the concept of positive affirmations into popular culture and made them cliché. But Franken didn’t originate the idea. In fact, positive affirmations have been around (and used) for over a century. Stuart Smalley made affirmations funny, but the truth is if they are used properly they really work.
A positive affirmation is a carefully formatted statement that you frequently repeat to yourself. The goal of an affirmation practice is to replace negative self-limiting beliefs with positive self-healing and self-affirming beliefs. As we learned in the previous newsletter issues, thoughts and beliefs are reality. They are our perceptions – the “colored classes” through which we see the world. The exciting news is that you don’t have to remain stuck with your existing beliefs if they aren’t serving you and helping you achieve your goals. You can exchange them for new (true) beliefs that are positive and productive. Using positive affirmations is a form of “brainwashing” where you get to choose which negative beliefs to wash away and replace them with positive beliefs.
All of our beliefs are stored in the subconscious mind, so in order to change your beliefs you have to operate at the subconscious level. The subconscious mind is like a computer. It collects everything you think, processes it, stores it, and spits it back out to you. It does not think by itself. It does not distinguish between bad and good. If you put garbage in, you get garbage out. If you fill it with self-limiting beliefs, your life becomes more limited, contracted and difficult.
In order to change your subconscious beliefs and create a new positive reality, you have to bombard your subconscious mind with the thoughts you desire. The way these statements are constructed is extremely important. Using them carelessly can create unexpected (and not necessarily beneficial) results. For an affirmation to be effective it must be present tense, positive, personal, and specific.
Let’s look at how to make positive affirmations that work. An effective affirmation includes all five of these elements:
- Use present tense. Begin each statement with the present tense: “I am”, “I choose”, “I have”, “I attract”, etc. Anticipating the future won’t change your subconscious. You must talk as if the thing you want is already a reality.
- Be positive. Only positive statements work. Do not include the word NOT. This is because what you fertilize grows and what you resist persists. The subconscious saves the object and not the qualifier. If you have something you want to stop or change, think of a way to word it positively. For example, don’t say “I am not fat”, instead say “I embrace a healthy lifestyle” or “I am a healthy weight for my body”.
- Be personal. You can choose from a proven list of affirmations (I’ve provided a list on the blog), but they work best, and fastest, if you create your own or customize them to represent what you wish to manifest. A life coach can help you develop affirmations for maximum effectiveness.
- Be specific. It’s not enough to repeat, “I am happy.” The affirmation needs to be at least as specific as the existing belief you want to replace.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. This step is the key. Positive affirmations literally reprogram your brain. But it takes time to create new pathways in the brain. You didn’t develop your current self-limiting beliefs overnight. Like a river, thoughts take the path of least resistance, and that means the most familiar path. Be patient and consistent and eventually the re-wiring becomes permanent.
You can maximize the effectiveness of affirmations by adding some of the following tips below. The more the better. To super-charge your affirmations:
- Say them out loud and with passion. Say your affirmations out loud and with passion. The higher your emotional state, the more effective they are and the faster they “stick” in the unconscious.
- Use the Mirror Technique. Perhaps the most powerful way to use affirmations is to state them out loud while looking in a mirror. By looking yourself in the eye you magnify the importance of the message to yourself.
- Write them down – many times. Once you pick an affirmation, write it down at least 20 times. This helps imprint the affirmation in your mind. Also consider writing them on notes or cards and leave them where you will see them frequently throughout the day. Every time you see the card, stop and repeat the affirmation at least five times.
- Combine them with visualization. Next week’s WTL Newsletter will include a discussion of effective visualization techniques.
- Sing or chant affirmations. One of the most effective ways to use affirmations is to sing them. The subconscious mind is more accepting of affirmations when they are sung. Singing causes the vibration to resonate throughout the body and carries greater emotion.