WTF is a positive affirmation and why do I need one?

Whether you’re a fan on an inspirational quote or not there’s no denying that with the rise of social media they’re becoming more and more prevalent in our lives. What you might not know, though, is that inspirational quotes are different from positive affirmations, and the latter are scientifically proven to benefit those who speak them.

Say what?

Yes you read that right; repeating (ideally out loud) a positive affirmation throughout the day can improve the brain functions required to actually make that affirmation come true!

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Want to know more? Here’s how it works:

Your brain is constantly sending & receiving thoughts & instructions at lightening speed, so every action you take is the result of a vast number of communication exchanges. Each time an action needs to be taken, the processes required are strengthened & the communication channels become clearer. Just like learning a new skill; the more you repeat a thought or belief to yourself, the brain gets trained to create the required action quicker & more natural.

So, the more you think something, the harder the brain works to create the action required for the thought to be true.

However, due to the high volume of actions your brain is responsible for in any given minute, it has streamlined the way it processes information in order to function as best as possible. This streamlining process means the brain understands literal, positive & present tense information. As soon as you think a thought, the brain processes the clearest & most literal part of that thought & starts the communication required to make that thing happen.

For example; if you think ‘I’m going to be hungry later’ your brain hears ‘hungry’ and starts firing off communication signals in order to prepare you for being hungry in this present moment; such as noticing restaurants or cafes in your vicinity. While the mind understands that this is a thought about a potential future scenario, the chemical processes in the brain are not able to interpret the difference between now and later.

Furthermore, the brain doesn’t have the time to interpret ‘negative’ statements. If you have ever repeated ‘don’t laugh’ over and over to yourself and found yourself actually laughing harder it’s because your brain hears ‘laugh’ and sends off that signal immediately. It takes much longer to process the ‘don’t’ part of the thought, and by the time it does, it’s too late.

What’s more; the brain cannot create an action from the command ‘don’t laugh’ because it needs an alternative action to put in the place of ‘laughing’, and things just end up getting confused.

Even worse, is that this same process also works with ‘positive’ negative thoughts. for example, if you think ‘today is a bad day’ your brain will hear ‘bad day’ and look for ways to affirm that thought; filtering out the things that don’t line up with that outcome (i.e. all the good things!).

Which leads me on the why the F you might need a positive affirmation in your life. Let’s take the affirmation ‘I am successful’ as an example’; the brain hears this thought over and over again, and each time sends signals & communications which strengthen or affirm this idea. It sets you up with confidence, acceptance, happiness and ease which come with believing you are successful; which in turn will help you to feel strong enough to take the necessary steps to actually achieving further success! It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So if there’s a part of you’re life you’re looking to improve; maybe your health, your career, your relationships, or just your general attitude towards the every day, then a positive affirmation could be the perfect simple tool for you.

However, as I mentioned, there’s a difference between an inspirational quote and a positive affirmation. As we can see from the above points, positive affirmations need to be set in the present tense, and able to be interpreted literally by the brain. Here’s an example:

Inspirational Quote

Don’t look back, you’re not going that way
— Mary Engelbreit

The negative action at the beginning of the quote means that the brain hears ‘look back’ first and gets you started with that before it interprets the ‘don’t’ instruction. You also haven’t given it an alternative to ‘looking back’ - where else should you look? Be literal!

Positive Affirmation

Every day is exciting & full of opportunity
— Me

This affirmation is set in the present tense, is positive & easy for the brain to understand; it needs to start making this thought a truth & will send you signals to alert you every time it finds something exciting, or an opportunity arises.

So now it’s up to you! I’ve pulled together a few of my favourites below, but you can make up your own to suit your needs! Repeat (ideally out loud but inside your head is also fine) 20 times, 3 times a day as required….and start to notice the difference!

But hang on! What if you don’t believe the statement you’re repeating? You might have heard in yoga that the posture you hate the most is the one you need the most. Well it works the same for affirmations. If you’re repeating ‘I love my body’ over and over again even though you don’t, your brain will be uncomfortable with the lie and will start the process to change the lie into the truth! So even if it feels unnatural or insincere to start with, the more you stick with it, the easier it will get!

My favourite positive affirmations:

  • I am patient, I am kind

  • I am successful

  • Every action I take is taking me towards success

  • I love myself

  • Every day is a good day

  • There is beauty in everything

  • I love life

  • I am walking the path that is right for me

  • Love is everywhere

  • I am right where I am supposed to be

  • I am good enough

  • My relationships are healthy & fulfilling

  • I have time

  • I am strong & confident

  • I can do anything I put my mind to

What are your favourite affirmations? Comment below!

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