“Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.
What is an Affirmation
An affirmation can be anything where you ‘affirm’ something to be true about yourself that you may or may not currently perceive as true about yourself. This can take the form of writing positive qualities down or in the form of incantations where you say a statement confidently about yourself repeatedly. But does this method actually work? If you’re not actually confident how exactly does saying “I am confident” do anything if the truth is you are not confident?
Reticular Activation System
Affirmations work because of the reticular activation system. What is the reticular activation system? The reticular activation system is located in your brain stem and is responsible for regulating sleep, motor control, pain, cardiovascular and habituation. For this discussion, we’ll be focusing more on the reticular formation which is the part of the reticular activation system which controls your habits. This part of the brain stem is responsible for ignoring repetitive meaningless stimuli so that it can focus on others.
Affirmations work by influencing this part of the primal brain. You can actually train the reticular activation system to ignore negative things and focus on the things you want. A common example of this is when you buy a truck. All of a sudden you see trucks everywhere when you could’ve sworn there were no trucks where you lived. It’s not that there were no trucks it’s that your reticular activation system was filtering meaningless stimuli. Now that you have a truck – trucks are now more important to you so the RAS focuses on trucks and now you see them everywhere.
By repeating incantations and doing affirmations you are basically buying a truck. You are bringing these new thoughts into your brain and getting your mind to focus on your goal or intention. If your problem is that you never eat healthily and you repeat to yourself “I can easily eat healthy every meal!” You will convince your RAS that this is important to you and all of a sudden you will stop seeing a McDonalds everywhere and you will see healthier options that you didn’t even know existed.
But Aren’t I Lying to Myself Repeatedly?
Yes you are. If you don’t believe in the affirmation. If you don’t believe in the affirmation then it won’t work. Your RAS doesn’t know the difference between what is real or fantasy. Imagination is important. When you say “I can easily eat healthy every meal!” actually imagine yourself eating something healthy. Say it with confidence. Scream it! Act as if it is already true and it will work for you.
It takes on average about a month for your RAS to get the message. It’s not like after you finish this article and you scream “I CAN EASILY EAT HEALTHY EVERY MEAL!” all of a sudden see Salad places everywhere. You are reprogramming your subconscious and this takes time. You will probably think it’s stupid at first because you won’t notice any changes and you’re not supposed to. Just give it time and you will reap the rewards.
How to make Positive Affirmations Work for You
The first thing you need to do is figure out your goal. What exactly do you want to change about your life or behavior? It could be to earn more money, be more confident, stop a bad habit, start a good habit or just convince yourself that you are awesome. Whatever it is you have to start with a powerful statement. Something like I will or I am.
Make sure your affirmations are clear, positive and strong. When you start doing this you will probably doubt the affirmation because your self-image is not aligned with the self-image you are trying to create. This is actually good since it shows you have a good affirmation.
You can then optionally add an adjective to make them pop. Something like easily, incredible, fantastic. This will make your affirmation pop and really pump you up!
Some example incantations to help get you started:
- I am the architect of my own life.
- I am courageous and I stand up for myself
- I am blessed with an incredible family and wonderful friends
- I am conquering myself every day. I enjoy the challenge!
- I am at peace with all that has happened, is happening and will happen.
Notice that they all start with ‘I am’. Every one of these incantations also has a strong adjective – architect, courageous, conquering. They are positive, strong and straight forward. Notice these don’t focus on what you don’t have. I don’t say ‘I am not afraid’ or ‘I am not ___’. Saying to yourself I am not afraid makes your brain think of the word afraid. Then it tries to negate it. Instead, focus completely on what you want and the positive. ‘I am courageous.’
Have a great day!
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