Affirmations. You may be quite familiar with the practice or you may hear it and think it sounds woo-woo. Either way, you’re not alone. Affirmations for both adults and kids are gaining popularity but haven’t permeated culture completely.
The truth is, the practice of affirmations is a well-established psychological theory* with a good bit of neuroscience behind it. It’s not a silver bullet, however, and as with most things, it must be practiced consistently to experience the benefits.
So, science? Yes. Magic? No.
What are affirmations?
Affirmations are positive statements we read or speak aloud to ourselves in an effort to reverse negative thought patterns and create new, positive neural pathways in our brains. By practicing affirmations with consistency, we will become happier, more confident individuals. And our actions will reflect it.
The science behind affirmations
Our brains are constantly receiving new messages and ideas. Once ideas have become accepted by our subconscious mind, they begin to influence the decisions we make in life, both positive and negative. Our minds are constantly filtering and bringing to our attention information that affirms our preexisting beliefs (psychologists call this confirmation bias**).
The goal of affirmations is to proactively rewrite negative messages our subconscious is believing. We want our subconscious mind to believe messages that are in alignment with who we really are and the values that are important to us.
The beautiful thing is, this reprograming of the brain we’re talking about is possible with intentional effort!
How do affirmations work?
Over time, the daily practice of reading or speaking positive affirmations can actually rewrite the negative messages our subconscious believes by replacing them with positive, empowering messages that are aligned with who we truly are. Studies have shown that speaking your affirmations aloud increases their efficacy. Our brain loves the sound of its voice. And since our behaviors are in direct correlation with our subconscious beliefs, this practice will directly affect the decisions we make.
It’s important to know that taking action on the things you’re affirming in yourself is vital to creating lasting change. For example, if one of your affirmations is, “I speak to my children calmly and lovingly”, then begin speaking to your children calmly and lovingly. Sounds easy enough, right? Not really, but taking action is a key ingredient to actually changing what your subconscious believes.
Why doesn’t our brain seem to like change?
We develop neural pathways in order to survive and thrive. The more we do something, the deeper those pathways get carved into our brain. (This is why encouraging our kids to practice this every day is such a valuable gift! Kids have had less time to accumulate and deepen negative messages... therefore rewriting those messages is easier for them!)
In a relatively short amount of time, our brain tries to determine what works and what doesn’t in order to create a framework that fits the information it has been given. Once the "framework" is built, those neural pathways are established and our brain might resist revisions of that framework. So when new information begins to "rock the boat", our brain sometimes gets a little nervous.
Thank you, sweet brain, you’re so diligent to protect us!
Over time and with consistency, though, our brain will begin to let its guard down as it learns this change is a good thing.
BENEFITS of practicing daily affirmations
A few of the documented benefits of affirmations are:
- Creates a more empowered, hopeful narrative about who we are and what we're capable of
- Strengthens our resilience in the face of difficult seasons or situations
- Lessens our tendency to dwell on negative experiences, emotions, and thoughts
- Creates a stronger, more positive sense of self - which directly affects our behavior and life decisions
Tips for a successful affirmations practice
When it comes to using affirmations, what works for one person might not be right for you. Here are a few tips to help as you're getting started:
- Speak your affirmations aloud at least once a day, but preferably 2-5 times every day
- Your affirmations should reflect your core values and natural strengths
- It takes time and consistency to achieve the change you’re after!
- The free Affirmations Pack from the Conscious Kids Journal is an awesome way to introduce your sweet kids to this powerful practice!
Can you imagine your kids holding such positive beliefs about who they are and what they’re capable of? What a beautiful way to build a foundation in them for the rest of their amazing lives!
What are YOUR favorite affirmations? Will you share them with us? We’d love to hear!
*Self-Affirmation Theory (Steele, 1988)
**Confirmation bias refers to our tendency to search for and favor information that confirms our beliefs while simultaneously ignoring or devaluing information that contradicts our beliefs.