What’s the secret to making positive affirmations work?

By Erin Del Toro, ACHE Licensed Clinical Hypnotherapist

Back in the 90’s, we all got a good laugh as SNL’s character Stuart Smalley preached to himself in the mirror, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” Back then, it seemed like something only the sad and hopeless would do. But in the 2010’s and 20’s, with our learning and advancement in understanding the reshapable brain, society seems to have realized that there really isn’t anything funny about affirmations at all. 

An increased number of thought leaders, therapists and medical professionals believe that there really is something to affirmations.  When affirmations are done correctly, the research backs them up. While we humans have been experimenting with affirmations more seriously in our modern culture for the past 25 years, we’ve shot at them in a variety of ways that kind of seem like we’ve been playing a game of darts blindfolded. 

Which is probably what makes so many people feel like affirmations end up being a waste of time. We’re throwing in the general direction, but probably not hitting the board, let alone hitting the target.

Let’s start by understanding how affirmations work. You can think of your subconscious mind as the programming for your entire mind and body system, ready to output the information it receives to the rest of your brain and body. Your body responds to whatever your subconscious mind tells it to. If you are a person who says things like, “I always misplace my keys,” or “I always eat too much,” you are telling your subconscious who you would like to be programmed to be. And the subconscious puts out exactly what it has been directed.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the theory of positive affirmations says that speaking positive things to yourself will yield positive changes and results. It’s exciting that this theory has been proven and continues to be proven true when the affirmations spoken contain more than just hopeful random thoughts.

The theory of positive affirmations says that speaking positive things to yourself will yield positive changes and results. It’s exciting that this theory has been proven and continues to be proven true.

So how do we make positive affirmations work for us, so that they don’t become a waste of time? To be effective, we are beginning to understand that affirmations need to contain the following:

  • They must connect feelings, emotions and imagery to your affirmations when you create them and when you speak them. The affirmation game is really about changing your neural pathways and the way your brain naturally (but maybe unhappily) directs thoughts. The more feeling and visual imagery you can stimulate with your affirmations as you speak them, the more you trigger your neural pathways to really build in a different direction. You can increase feeling by imagining what it might be like to have your affirmation come true. Sit with it, ponder it, close your eyes and imagine it as real. 
  • Affirmations need to be centered around your values and goals and the things that have real meaning to you. Research shows that this is one of the best ways to make the most change. If your affirmations don’t truly mean something to you, they can just become more of the stressful, meaningless chatter that we humans are all too used to.
  • They should be said at least 3 times in a row first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. The closer to sleep you are, the closer you are to connecting those affirmations with your deeper subconscious, giving you a leg up on restructuring your neural pathways. For this reason, bringing your affirmations into your meditation routine or speaking affirmations during a hypnotherapy session can also greatly increase the effectiveness of affirmations.
  • Be consistent. You’ll see faster and better results if you stay the course for weeks and months at a time. 
  • They should be realistic but hopeful. Say someone who absolutely hates everything about their body and wants to change self-image goes with the phrase, “I love my beautiful body.” Because loving their body in actuality is such a foreign concept, this person will probably have a challenging time putting in the emotion needed to cause the brain to change. This is why I suggest graduating yourself in realistic but hopeful, goal-aimed affirmations. It’s something I love to do with hypnotherapy clients because it’s so effective, but you can do it on your own and yield great results with enough persistence. This person could start with something attainable, like, “I am beginning to understand the feeling of loving myself” and then graduate the phrase continually over time until they reach the actual goal affirmation of something along the lines of, “I love my body and am so grateful for it’s beauty.”
  • They should be said at least 3 times in a row first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. The closer to sleep you are, the closer you are to connecting those affirmations with your deeper subconscious, giving you a leg up on restructuring your neural pathways. For this reason, bringing your affirmations into your meditation routine or speaking affirmations during a hypnotherapy session can also greatly increase the effectiveness of affirmations.
  • Be consistent. You’ll see faster and better results if you stay the course for weeks and months at a time. 

If you feel like you need help with creating the correct positive affirmations for yourself, you can reach out to a certified life coach who specializes in self-esteem, you can ask your therapist for guidance, or you can ask a clinical hypnotherapist to help you as well. With persistence, consistency and real focus, your affirmations can lead you to the path of becoming the person you truly know you can be. 

If you are looking to learn more about hypnotherapy or would like to make an appointment, visit truenorthmindmanagement.com, call or text Erin at 435-429-2560 or email erin@truenorthmindmanagement.com.

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