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The use of positive affirmations is an incredibly powerful self improvement skill that when implemented consistently and intentionally, can completely change the way we think about ourselves, the world around us, and how we feel.
We often underestimate the power of our thoughts. The reality, however, is that what we tell ourselves plays an important role in the outcomes in our lives. We are in complete control of our actions which essentially can influence how the world around us responds to us.
This is not to be confused with controlling others or controlling our situations. We cannot control those things. However, when we learn self control, we can regulate our thoughts and emotions which does have an impact on how we relate to the world and vice versa.
Positive affirmations can help us master shifting our limiting belief mindset and maintaining a positive mindset. The choices we make are influenced by our beliefs, our thoughts, and our feelings; they are all interrelated.
And believe it or not, challenging the way we think is also a choice. It is a very powerful choice. It is so powerful that it is also one of the most challenging things we will probably ever do in our lives.
How to use positive affirmations to change your mindset
There are several ways to implement positive affirmations into your life to help you change your mindset. For the purposes of this article, however, the focus will be on how to implement positive affirmations in your daily routing using journaling.
What does “positive affirmations” mean?
Mind Tools defines positive affirmations as:
“Positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them often, and believe in them, you can start to make positive changes.”Mindtools, Using Affirmations: Harnessing Positive Thinking, 2021.
In other words, our inner dialogue determine our outcomes, and sometimes those discussions are not very friendly or self-compassionate. We can actually derail ourselves while trying to reach our goals simply because of our inner dialogue.
For instance, if I continue to tell myself, “I can’t,” then I am saying I never will. Why? Because it is the same thing as telling myself no. Saying “I can’t do this” does not give ourselves permission to even make the effort.
Positive self-affirmations are kind of like our best friends giving us encouragement when we are down, motivating us to push us to the finish line, providing us comfort when we are hurt, calming us down when we feel angry, and holding us accountable when we are talking bad about ourselves.
Positive affirmations are our own words talking to us as our best friends would. They are the words we tell ourselves that mold us into becoming our OWN best friends.
And, if we continue using positive affirmations on a daily basis, we can carry and maintain the friendship we have with ourselves for a lifetime.
What is the most powerful positive affirmation?
In the Global Journal of Commerce and Management and Perspective, Yusof, Kian, and Idris write:
Motivation is individuals’ willingness to do something to satisfy their needs (Whiseand & Rush, 1988) that energises them to take action toYusof, Kian,&Idris (2013). Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory on Work Motivation: Does it Work for Today’s Environment? Global Journal of Commerce and Management Perspective, Vol 2(5), pp. 18-22.
modify and use goal-oriented behaviour (Wregner & Miller, 2003).
When we are self motivated, we are self empowered, and self empowerment drives our successes. We drive ourselves to move forward, take action, set goals, and take the necessary steps to make changes.
I recently listened to the audiobook, Outwitting the Devil by Napolean Hill in which he explains the power of our thoughts and “accurate” thinking. The lengthy, powerful, and thought provoking commentary he has with the “devil” describes in detail all of the tactics relating to fear, its purpose, how fear is used to control our minds, and how we “drift” to keep us from thinking for ourselves.
Therefore, when asking, “what are the most powerful affirmations?” The answer is, they are the affirmations we create and make for ourselves from WITHIN our own minds.
Think of it this way, when reading examples of positive affirmations, and possibly writing them on sticky notes, hanging them up, or writing them in our writing journals, we aren’t thinking for ourselves. We are using others’ words to teach us how to think, rather than empowering us to think for ourselves.
Our inner critic is much more powerful than that.
For example, how many times have you told yourself things like, “I can’t do this,” “things like that don’t happen to people like me,” or worse, “I am not good enough.”
And then, how distant your dreams become, and eventually disappear. It is not because your dream, whatever it may be, is too big, it is because your negative self talk is much bigger than your dreams.
Our thoughts are that powerful.
The garbage well tell ourselves can be stuffed into garbage bags and thrown into a dumpster very quickly simply by taking the time to think for ourselves and have better, more positive conversations with ourselves. Our fearful thoughts have only as much power that we give them.
That is right: you are in control. You have the choice to think for yourself and when you creat your own positive affirmations,
With that being said, this does not mean that using other prewritten or already created affirmations cannot be useful. But, use them for inspiration and apply your own thinking.
Do positive affirmations work?
Now, I don’t want to go confusing you because I just explained how positive affirmations can help overcome our fears and help us reach our goals.
But, over the course of my 16 year career as a therapist, I have not seen a huge impact on people’s lives solely by using positive affirmations.
Sometimes people have had traumatic experiences in their lives that have helped shaped their belief systems about who they are, how they see themselves, and how they feel about themselves.
Low self worth, excessive fears and worries, excessive sadness, irritability, and lack of motivation, can be related to mental health conditions. Because the underlying beliefs are deeply ingrained, applying positive affirmation skills might not work.
Think of it like trying to remove oil from a shirt. We can put some Shout on it and wash it, but it only works removing the oil from the surface. After washing, it still leaves residue and doesn’t remove the stain completely. In order to completely remove the stain, other things might need to be applied and may need to be scrubbed a bit harder.
The effectiveness of positive affirmations is circumstantial
Positive affirmations work the same way; they only act as tools to help shift current negative thinking to more positive mindsets. However, when there are underlying traumas from childhood, there are lasting effects that may require therapy.
That is not to say positive affirmations cannot be beneficial nor is to say not to use them. It is to say that some fears, values, and self-perceptions are related to factors that require healing to overcome and, therefore, they may not work for everyone.
How do we use positive affirmations for changing our mindsets ?
Spending time in both morning and evening to journal is such a beneficial way to learn who we are, how we think, how we respond to our circumstances, and it provides us the space we need to focus.
Your journaling process doesn’t have to be anything fancy. All you really need is a pen and some paper (preferably a notebook of sorts to keep your journaling in one place.
I use dot grid notebooks (or bullet journals) because that is what works best for me. However, I recently purchased the High Performance Planner which is the sidekick to Brendon Burchard’s book High Performance Habits. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS PLANNER! It is extremely simple, and does not take a ton of time – there are some guided prompts to write down the answers to 15 minutes in the morning to start the day, and 15 minutes in the evening to reflect on the day.
By doing this daily, you are going to make observations about yourself and the way you think. You will begin to establish a positive routine that is focused on your goals, even if they are just small ones.
I also recommend keeping a separate journal which will provide the space for you to create your own positive affirmations, in addition to using the High Performance Planner.
Create your own positive affirmations
Jack Canfield, the originator of Chicken Soup for the Soul, shares some steps to create our own positive affirmations in his article, Daily Affirmations for Positive Thinking:
- Start with the words “I am.” These are the two most powerful words in the English language.
- Use the present tense.
- State it in the positive. Affirm what you want, not what you don’t want.
- Keep it brief.
- Make it specific.
- Include an action word ending with –ing.
- Include at least one dynamic emotion or feeling word.
- Make affirmations for yourself, not others.
Related article: How to Start Journaling for Self Love
Examples of writing your own positive affirmations
|Current thought||Positive Affirmation|
|I can’t do this. Everyone is going to think I am stupid.||I am knowledgeable about what I am sharing with people and believe what I have to share is beneficial to others and cannot control what others think of me.|
|I am a failure||I am proud of how far I have come and am continuing to progress everyday when I complete important tasks|
|They aren’t going to like me||I am happy with who I am and am embracing, loving, and valuing myself without judgment|
|I can’t do anything right||I am embracing my mistakes without judgment, and am excited about the things I am learning in this moment|
Other examples for writing down positive self affirmations:
- Create your own inspirational quotes and reflect upon them frequently, and memorize them
- Create a separate page, or pages, in your journal and begin sentences with “I am,” “I deserve,” “I am forgiving myself for,” “I am believing in myself by” “I am showing myself kindness to myself and others when”
- Create your own mantra, write it down, memorize it, and set goals for yourself to achieve the vision and mission behind it
Daily gratitude routine
Gratitude is a type of mindful positive self talk that can help us remain in the present moment. Even if all you did was practice daily gratitude, you would discover you will have a more positive outlook you would have on your life, and in a relatively short period of time. Gratitude helps us become more optimistic, have a positive mental attitude, melts away negative feelings, and our lives become more fulfilling.
In a recent article published in Positive Psychology, Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury writes:
When we express gratitude and receive the same, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel ‘good’. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
Negative thoughts are connected to negative emotions, and positive thinking is connected to positive emotions. Part of shifting our mindsets is being grateful.
I recommend maintaining a daily gratitude list in your journal and being intentional about establishing a daily gratitude routine. You will find that throughout the day you will feel less stressed and will naturally have a more positive mindset. This in turn will result in a much more positive representation of ourselves while navigating through our lives.
Changing how we think about ourselves and the world around us doesn’t magically just happen when we say nice things about ourselves once or twice.
Think about it (that pun is not intended by the way): how long has it taken the way we think to manifest itself into our lives? Our thoughts come from our beliefs and those have not just appeared in our subconscious minds overnight. Therefore, changing the way we think doesn’t happen overnight.
It takes practice and consistency. We have all heard the saying, “fake it until you make it.” Sometimes the way we think and feel about ourselves is so negative that they manifest themselves into some really bad habits.
Trying to change those habits is like telling a child he can’t have his own way. He throws an absolutely ridiculous temper tantrum. Our resistance to change is like a screaming child having that massive tantrum, except we do it on an adult level where we don’t have anyone forcing us to knock it off.
We have to do it ourselves, and that takes discipline and consistency.
To help get you started creating your own positive affirmations, I have created some free positive affirmations pdf worksheets for you. Just click the download button.
Benefits of journaling positive affirmations
- Reduces limiting beliefs about ourselves
- Improves mood
- Increases self awareness
- Elevates our emotional intelligence
- Builds self esteem
- When combined with actionable steps, can assist with reaching our financial, relationship, spiritual, physical, and spiritual goals
- Improves focus and concentration
- Increases productivity
How long does it take for positive affirmations to work?
Because everyone’s thought processes are different, and because there are multiple factors such as life experiences, intentionality, and motivation that contribute to change, the length of time it takes for positive affirmations varies.
The key is consistency and being intentional. Changing our mindset takes practice, similar to going to the gym. The more we work out, the more our muscles get accustomed to exercise, and the more they develop. When we are consistent with our self awareness and self love practices, we can shift our entire mindsets.
Think of it this way: the way we view ourselves and the world around us didn’t happen overnight. If we put the same effort into having constructive, beneficial, encouraging discussions with ourselves, as we do with the discussions that distract us and discourage ourselves from our purpose, we will begin to see positive results.
Here are some books and journals that I recommend for you: