Affirmation activities can train the brain to be more resilient under stress. With practice, self-affirmations may help you in both your personal and professional life.
If your mind wanders into negative or unhelpful territory more often than not, you’re not alone. Many people have an inner critic whose voice rings loud and clear. Affirmation activities can put the power of positive thinking to work for your benefit.
Your emotional state affects how you think, and what you think can also influence your emotions. Everything from a disagreement with a loved one to the current state of politics can put you into a negative mental space.
And before you know it, that energy can seep into your thoughts.
Affirmation activities can help boost your confidence when you feel powerless, reduce fear of judgment, and broaden your perspective, helping you in both your personal and professional life.
Your brain adapts and changes based on your thoughts and experiences, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Self-affirmation is a form of positive self-talk that creates positive changes in your thinking patterns.
The word affirm means “a statement of fact.” Self-affirmations are statements of fact about yourself that help you maintain your “perceived worth and integrity,” according to a 2013 literature review.
Self-affirmation theory relies on the premise that our sense of self is flexible. When you experience a threat to your sense of self, you can draw on self-affirmations to maintain your self-integrity. Self-affirmations are a reminder of your goals, worth, and values.
For many people, self-affirmations also act as a buffer to help reduce stress when their sense of self comes into question.
A 2015 analysis found that self-affirmations increased activity in the brain’s rewards center. Positive affirmations can also trigger the release of feel-good hormones, much like exercise. The same study found evidence that the positive consequences of affirmations may motivate you to act when you otherwise might not.
1. Create a list of positive affirmations
If you’re not sure where to begin, try creating a list of positive affirmations that you might potentially use. Break things down into categories, such as social, emotional, intellectual, and physical. For example, your physical list of affirmations might look like this:
- I am healthy and strong.
- I exercise every day.
- I nourish my body with healthy food choices.
- I love how strong my body is.
- I choose healthy, nutritious food.
2. Make affirmation posters
Consider creating a few affirmation posters and putting them in key areas of your home or office to remind you of important self-affirming phrases.
For example, a poster in your pantry that says, “I choose food that nourishes me and makes me feel good,” may remind you of the goals you’ve set for yourself. A poster at work might say something like, “I am valuable to my team.”
3. Find or create your favorite affirmations
Remember that list of positive affirmations? You may find that some affirmations just don’t work for you.
It may be helpful to take some time to work on creating affirmations that speak to you. Try performing a Google search or brainstorming affirmation statements based on your goals. It’s okay to try out an affirmation and realize that it’s not quite right for you. Scratch it off the list, and try a different statement.
4. Say your affirmations out loud
Try starting your day by saying your affirmations out loud. Organizing your thoughts and saying them out loud trains your brain to form new thought patterns.
Practicing affirmations might feel silly at first, but keeping at it may help them feel more natural.
5. The “I am . . .” exercise
Not sure where to begin? This simple exercise can help you identify things that are most important to you.
Complete the sentence “I am . . .” with the first thoughts that come to your mind. Try another variation if ‘I am’ sentences don’t work for you. “Today, I will . . .” might work better to discover your goals and motivations.
6. Affirmations with mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation trains you to keep your thoughts in the present moment and can help reduce stress and enhance well-being. Try adding an affirmation to your meditation sessions.
With every out-breath, say one of your affirmations to yourself. Keep breathing deeply as you say the affirmation over and over again.
7. Sticky note reminders
Some people change their affirmations every day, week, or month. Sticky notes are an easy way to keep your affirmations visible. Consider putting one on your bathroom mirror, next to your workstation, or by the garage door so you can look at them throughout the day.
8. Journal your affirmations
A journal is an excellent place to write down and reflect on your affirmations. You may want to record how the affirmations make you feel or affect you. This coping strategy encourages positive thinking and may help you to better understand your feelings.
9. Dedicate an affirmation day
Try treating yourself with a special affirmation day. You might:
- Fill your home with sticky notes covered in affirmations.
- Make affirmation posters.
- Say your affirmations out loud throughout the day, not just first thing in the morning or at bedtime.
10. Lyric affirmations
Adults aren’t the only ones who benefit from affirmations. Consider talking to your tweens or teens about positive affirmations in their favorite songs. “Happy” by Pharrell Williams or “Roar” by Katie Perry are a couple of examples. Try paying attention to potential positive affirmations when streaming music or listening to the radio together.
Stress happens to just about everyone. Practicing self-affirmations can act like “exercise” for your brain when you start to think negative or unhelpful thoughts.
These 10 easy tips can help you get started using self-affirmations to regain balance from these patterns under stress.
If you still find that you feel overwhelmed or have trouble with unhelpful thoughts, consider reaching out to a therapist. Psych Central’s guide to seeking mental health support is a great place to start.