This is the third post in a series of helpful mental techniques or “tools” that I’ve learned in therapy. The first and second were about identifying and replacing unhelpful thinking styles and intentionally practicing gratitude.
Today I’m going to talk about Daily Affirmations.
An affirmation is a positive declaration of encouragement or support. As I’ve mentioned in the unhelpful thinking styles post, one of my biggest struggles has always been negative self-talk, and a daily affirmation is an intentional way to do exactly the opposite. Studies have shown that self-affirmation even improves problem solving, boosts grade-point averages in students, and enhances performance while also increasing receptiveness to mistakes.
I have a list of affirmations taped to my bathroom mirror. When I’m getting ready in the morning, I see it and am reminded to tell myself something kind and encouraging from it. This is another practice where stating it out loud is important (and challenging, at least for me), and I like to look myself in the eye in the mirror. Here are a few examples:
-I am open to discovering new meaning in my life.
-It’s okay to make mistakes. I am willing to accept my mistakes and learn from them.
-I respect and believe in myself apart from others’ opinions.
-Nobody’s perfect, and I’m willing to go easier on myself.
-I accept the natural ups and downs of life.
Note that they are in the present tense. Also, make your affirmations specific to you and your situation, and be honest. When I first started out, I couldn’t bring myself to say, “I love myself,” because it was insincere, so I changed it to, “I am learning to love myself.”
It takes repeated practice before this becomes comfortable, and even more time before you may notice a difference. Negativity is a challenging habit to break, but by choosing positivity on a daily basis new neural pathways will form and become stronger. I also find it’s simply a more favourable way to start the day.
What positive thing can you tell yourself today?