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?”
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.
The French psychologist, Emile Coué, first popularized self-affirmations
in the 1920s, and they are gaining popularity today for good reasons! Many
people successfully use them to lose weight, make more money, and overcome
fears. According to a recent study by Carnegie Mellon University, positive
affirmations guard against the damaging effects of stress on our problem
solving abilities. Other studies show that students who practice positive
affirmation activities at the beginning of a semester boost their GPAs.
According to Dr. Ronald Alexander writing in Psychology Today, there are a few
keys to successful use of positive affirmations.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.