By Shreya Durve, MBBS Student
Affirmations are positive statements we make that work towards creating a more nurturing environment for ourselves and those around us. They work towards minimizing the negative thoughts we tend to have, meanwhile also harnessing positive thoughts.
How do they work?
Affirmations are like mental health exercises – to work towards a more healthy attitude and better thoughts. While some might criticize these statements as being unrealistic – they have also been proven to gradually build a more healthy and well mindset. The idea behind this is, that when we use these words often, and regularly – it reprograms our mind and works towards eliminating negative thoughts.
It is important to use these affirmations daily, and several times daily. Some might also set up a notification system on their phones to remind them! You can also pair them up with other stress management and affirming modalities to gain the maximum benefit.
When working on what we must say to ourselves in order to call it an affirmation, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
• What are our goals: While some might have body image issues and need to form an affirmation that needs to be oriented towards building a healthier body image, some might have lower self-esteem and need to work towards loving themselves more and forming a healthier self-opinion. Besides, not everyone needs to have an issue in order to create a positive statement. Some might want to improve certain aspects of their life, like improve productivity and just want to have the option of loving themselves fully!
• Make it realistic: While it is good to have an affirmation filled with confidence and self-assurance; we must ensure that they have their basis in reality. For example – saying that you are a celebrity and everyone in this world will love you is grounds for disappointment. Instead, we can say that we are enough, and not everyone needs to love us to prove how worthy and deserving we are.
• Work on the negatives: Make a list of all the negative thoughts you have and work towards turning them into positive statements. For example, if we constantly think of how useless we are at work – we can turn it into a positive statement such as; we work hard and the best way we can. And for that, we appreciate ourselves.
• The power of the tense: Ensure that the statements you create are grounded in the present only. This is to make sure that the words we use, help us believe that we do possess this even today.
• Use your emotions: Saying emotionless statements might not hold the same gravity as adding colour to the statements. Sometimes, even emphasizing happiness can build a happier outlook.
These positive statements can be used in any and every context where an individual may need a boost. It is not necessary that a person suffering from negative thoughts is the only one who needs these statements – we believe that everyone deserves to feel good and love themselves!
• Self-esteem: Research shows that affirmations if used in the right way, have the power to improve the self-esteem of an individual and build a more healthy self-image. This, however, has its set of limitations that will be explored further.
• Improve performance: People who face trouble being productive at work have been known to benefit from affirmations centred around their work performance and improve their motivation to work.
• Improve anxiety: Individuals who have stage fright or face generalized anxiety in relation to a variety of things tend to benefit from well-framed affirmations. For example, someone who has trouble giving a presentation in front of a big crowd, can truly benefit from just an “I can do this! I got this!”.
• Control negative feelings: Someone with spontaneous outbursts, or just a bad time can use this method to control their negative emotions and thoughts and navigate their energy towards something more positive.
• Overcoming bad habits: While not always foolproof – and with its limitations, someone wanting to rid of a bad habit can utilize this modality to build a stronger stand. For example, a nail-biter might build an affirmation saying – “I will not do this! It is not good for me, and I am better than that anyways!”
The power of affirmations is often underestimated and rarely utilized to the maximum. However, it is the duty of someone aiming to educate, to make the audience aware of all the negatives to overcome.
• The negative self-esteem: As was already mentioned, these affirmations work towards a more positive outlook of life and build better self-esteem. However, some research also shows that individuals who have very poor self-esteem might in fact have countereffects. These positive affirmations might create a split set of minds – leading them to draw differences in actuality and the affirmations.
• Toxic positivity: A rather “in” topic of conversation at the moment- the toxic positivity culture. While building our affirmations. It is important to ensure that they are based in reality, and don't take away our ability to emote. For example, if we are having a traumatic experience – saying “I should not cry” takes away from our right and ability to cry our feelings out and doesn’t allow the freedom to express. Hence, it is important to maintain a positive outlook, while also learning to embrace the negatives stealthily.
• The extremes: Overuse of affirmations does not compensate for therapy. Please go to a professional in case of distress – do not self-treat!
1. Negative thought: “I am so dumb! I can never do this!”
Positive affirmation: “I am capable. I can do this.”
2. Negative thought: “My body is so ugly!”
Positive affirmation: “My body is beautiful and I don’t need any comparison to come to that conclusion!”
3. Negative thought: “I don’t believe I am enough for this job.”
Positive affirmation: “I am capable and hard work. I definitely deserve this position!”
4. Negative thought: “I can’t talk in front of all these people. I will make a fool of myself.”
Positive affirmation: “I have prepared well for this presentation/talk. I can do this! I won’t mess this up!”
5. Negative Thoughts: “I don’t believe my skills match up to this work. What if I am not up to the mark?”
Positive affirmations: “My creativity and skills are enough for this job. I can do this!”
6. Negative thoughts: “I have no value and everyone thinks lowly of me.”
Positive affirmations: “My work and effort are valued wherever I go, and I don’t need validation to know how awesome I am!”
7. Negative thoughts: “I am so unhappy!”
Positive affirmations: “I am happy, and that is enough.”
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