Stephanie was edging her grass when I walked across the street this morning to say hello after getting back from my trip to South and Central America. She shaded her eyes with one hand and smiled. “You’re home!” We talked for a few minutes and I gave her the chocolate bar I picked up for her in Belize. “Oh my goodness! Ross (her husband) will love this!” she said. “I’m not dieting. I’m trying this new thing someone told me about. I wrote on a piece of paper, ‘I eat mostly vegetables,’ and I read it several times a day. And you know what? It’s working! At night when the kids are in bed, I’m eating carrots now instead of popcorn!” I laughed and nodded, and she said, “Wait, was that you who told me that?”
It was. A few years ago, as a joke (because it was SO not true) I started telling my kids, “I mostly eat vegetables.” After about a week of saying this, I realized—with a shock—that it was true! I was mostly eating vegetables! Thus started my obsession with positive affirmations.
How can you make positive affirmations work for you? According to Dr. Ronald Alexander writing in Psychology Today, there are a few keys to successful use of positive affirmations.
1. Identify areas where you want to improve. To find particularly powerful affirmations, think about what you consider your negative attributes. We all have flaws—it’s part of being human. Perhaps you believe you are unworthy. As you do this, notice where in your body you are carrying stress about this perceived flaw. Do your shoulders tense? Does your stomach tighten? Make a note of the things you want to improve and where you are holding the stress.
2. Write a positive affirmation that correlates to your perceived weakness. Look for strong words that embody what you want to believe about yourself. Rather than simply saying, “I am worthy,” you might say, “I am remarkable and cherished.” Make sure the statement is worded in a positive way, without any words like “not” or “no.” Write your positive affirmation!
3. Speak your positive affirmation out loud to yourself several times a day. I write mine with a dry erase marker on my bathroom mirror and say them out loud while I’m getting reading in the morning. Looking at yourself in the mirror as you say your affirmation out loud is particularly powerful. You can also write it out several times a day in your journal.
4. Anchor the affirmation in your body. As you say it out loud, place a hand on the part of your body where you carry the stress associated with the negative belief.
5. Have a friend repeat the affirmation to you. This final step helps to reinforce the beliefs that you are fostering in yourself. If you don’t have someone you feel comfortable asking to help you with this, looking at yourself in the mirror can reinforce your new, healthy self-image.
Recently, I programmed my positive affirmations into my phone with a reminder that goes off every hour. When the reminder comes up on my phone, I read it out loud to myself. As with every affirmation, when I first started telling myself I am a successful strategy consultant, it felt like a lie. Now, after about 2 weeks, I nod when the reminders come up, and I think to myself, “Yep! I know that I am.” And I find myself easily taking actions that confirm what I already know.