Affirmations are a fantastic way to build a happier, more positive outlook. Reset your intentions with this expert guide and 11 affirmations you can try today.
Whether it’s that back to school feeling that never really never leaves us, or just the natural shift of an incoming season, those first whispers of autumn can bring a moment of pause and reassessment for many. A feeling that now’s the time to refresh routines or get back to business – whatever it may be. So, as summer draws to a close, we’re getting ahead of that autumn reset with a deep dive into positive affirmations, and how they can help us to set a new focus.
But first, let’s clarify what we actually mean by positive affirmation.
WHAT DOES AFFIRMATION MEAN?
The dictionary defines affirmation as the action of stating something emphatically, confirmation that something is true, or a declaration of support. All of which track with the intention behind the beautiful practice of positive affirmations and how they work to manifest change and self-love.
For Eloise Skinner, an existential therapist and author of But Are You Alive?, positive affirmations are quite literally ‘short summary statements’ that are phrased in motivational, supportive language. “They should capture something of value to us, whether it's present-focused (how we are right now), or future-focused (how we'd like things to be in the future),” she explains.
Research has shown that practising self-affirmation can have a wide range of positive benefits, including helping to reduce stress, boost happiness and confidence, and even increase productivity.
“Affirmations can help us to reinforce a positive self-image, allowing us to feel as though the things we value are really reflected in who we are,” notes Skinner.
HOW DO POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS WORK?
The idea that affirmations have the power to positively influence our minds and wellbeing isn’t new. In fact, a lot of today’s thinking around the practice stems from a 1988 study by Claude M. Steele, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. Steele’s self-affirmation theory asserts that by regularly reflecting on and reaffirming our values, we build a stronger sense of self and effectively train our minds to better cope with stress and challenges.
It’s a theory that’s still widely cited by experts in the field, and one that Dr Rina Bajaj, a chartered-counselling psychologist and author of The Magic in Me, also credits. “There is evidence that we can alter the neural pathways in our brain through regular practices that help us to balance our thoughts, and engrain more positive thinking patterns,” she explains.
“When practised consistently, positivity is more likely to become our default mindset. The more you practise, the greater the shift. Over time, small steps create bigger shifts, helping to reset our mind and thoughts to work for us rather than against us. Consistency is key.”
HOW TO USE POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS
While specific positive affirmations can be helpful to build your confidence ahead of a big event or exam, as Dr. Rina notes, consistent daily practice is where you’ll reap the most reward. But that’s not all there is to it – connecting with your inner self is also key.
“It is not just about saying the words, the main thing is that you connect to the words and feelings,” explains Dr. Rina. “You can write it down, say it out loud, voice record it and play it back to yourself daily, or visualise images or places associated with it.”
Along with connection and consistency, Skinner highlights another crucial point: “Be wary of falling into a habit of using affirmations to simply wish for something that you want – they’re often most effective when they reflect a personal value or meaningful aspect of identity. For example, instead of 'I want to pass my exam with top marks', try 'I love studying and learning, and I'm excited to perform to the best of my ability’.”
11 POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS TO TRY NOW
Ready to give positive affirmations a go? Our experts have kindly shared some inspiring affirmations to help you get started. See which ones you connect with, and add them to your daily routine.
Remember, affirmations that feel specific to you and your values are best, and if you’d prefer to create your own, try to use present tense and avoid negative language.
5 positive affirmations to help set your focus:
- I am open and enthusiastic about the next season of my life
- I have a clear focus on what will come next
- I am focused on my personal values, and on crafting an authentic, meaningful life
- I am ready to leave the old season behind and head into a new phase of life
- I trust that the right things, opportunities and experiences will come to me when I am ready for them
6 positive affirmations to reaffirm your values:
- I have inner strength
- I am a compassionate person
- I am successful
- I have the inner and outer resources I need
- I love myself unconditionally
- I am fearless