Welcome to your complete guide to affirmations! In this simple and streamlined cheat sheet, I’m addressing all of the most important questions about affirmations from, “What are affirmations?” to “How do I do affirmations?” to “What if affirmations don’t feel true?”
My experience is that, while the principles of affirmations are really simple, the practice frequently causes confusion and misunderstanding. For example, one common misconception is that affirmation practice means “being positive” all of the time. Not so! In addition, people sometimes give up on affirmations when they don’t immediately “work.” That’s truly unfortunate, because affirmations will serve you when they’re correctly understood and properly used.
So let’s clear everything up now.
And first things first: affirmations are meant to be joyful and fun!
What Are Affirmations?
Affirmations are the language of your daily life. They’re simply the words and thoughts that you believe to be true. You might say these words out loud, but more often they’re just thoughts you think.
When you’re thinking angry, stressed, anxious, or sad thoughts, you’re using affirmations. In the past, these were sometimes referred to as “negative affirmations.” But I prefer to call these affirmations “fear-based” or “disempowering” because it isn’t helpful for us to label any affirmations as “bad” or “wrong.” Our goal is to observe affirmations without guilt or self-condemnation.
You’re also using affirmations when you’re thinking hopeful, uplifted, joyful, accepting, or peaceful thoughts. These are sometimes called “positive affirmations,” but, again, I prefer “empowering” or “loving.”
What’s the Purpose of Affirmations?
The ultimate purpose of affirmation practice is to teach you that your thoughts are creating your life experience. You discover that there isn’t an outside source that’s causing the challenges and struggles in your life. Rather, the cause is in your own mind. As you practice, you’ll become masterful at deliberately choosing thoughts that inspire, empower, and uplift. Thus, your life is guaranteed to become far more peaceful, joyful, abundant, fun, and blessed.
The study of affirmations is the study of self-empowerment. Because affirmations teach us that our thougths create our lives, they help us discover our self worth.
One of the great teachers of affirmations, Louise Hay, said, “You have the power to heal your own life.” In my opinion, those words perfectly sum up the message of affirmations. They’re meant to empower you to take the reins of your own life experience. Affirmations will help you make the shift from “helpless victim of a brash and careless world” to “powerful creator of a loving world.”
How Do Affirmations Work?
Affirmation practice can be summed up in a simple 4-step process:
Step 1: Observe
The first step in affirmations practice happens when you become a conscious observer of your own words and thoughts. Most humans on the planet are so carried away by their own thoughts, stories, and internal dramas. They aren’t even aware that they could become observers of their thoughts. Most people simply believe every thought that arises in their minds.
So it’s a big victory whenever you consciously take that first step and notice your own thought patterns. You’re officially waking up to the ways in which you’re creating your own life experience!
Step 2: Catch
The next step in the process is that you specifically catch all of those thoughts and words that aren’t serving you. Step 2 involves observation of your emotions so that you can identify the thoughts that bring you feelings of worry, anger, fear, sadness, or a sense of helplessness.
Most of us have deeply ingrained thought patterns that tell us we’re lacking in key areas of life such as: body image and health, work or career, money, family and relationships, etc. In Step 2, we notice those thoughts and words as they arise.
Step 3: Replace
As soon as you catch a thought that isn’t serving you, the next step in the process is to replace that thought with a loving or empowering thought. You create an empowering affirmation by envisioning the opposite scenario from Step 2. In other words, how could you rewrite your fear-based affirmation in a way that would bring a sense of peace or joy instead? If you find in Step 2 that you constantly beat up on yourself about the size and shape of your body, for example, your loving affirmation might be, “I’m kind to my body and fully accept it.”
To help inspire you, I’ve provided several examples of loving affirmations in the section below.
Step 4: Repeat
One thing you probably noticed in Step 1: our fear-based affirmations are deeply repetitive and habitual. Some of our most challenging thoughts cycle through our minds on an hourly basis (or more!) Therefore, saying a loving affirmation one time isn’t going to change much in your life. In order to effect real change, you have to turn loving affirmations into a daily practice.
Over time, the goal is to rewire your mind until the vast majority of your thoughts are empowering and helping you to create the life you want!
What Are Examples of Affirmations?
Here are some examples of typical fear-based or disempowering thoughts. These thoughts frequently arise as a person experiences difficulties and challenges in her day:
- I don’t have enough money, and I’m so tired of struggling with all of the bills.
- I never have enough time in the day.
- I hate my job.
- I feel tiny and helpless when I see all of the scary things happening in the world.
- I feel overwhelmed with my to-do list.
Now, here’s the opposite of each fear-based affirmation listed above. Again, it’s very simple to create affirmations that serve you. Your only work is to catch each disempowering thought as it arises in your mind, create the reverse thought, and then spend a minute or two each day affirming the new, loving thought. [All of the following loving affirmations were written by Louise Hay]:
- I’m worthy of a very good income. I don’t have to struggle to achieve it; it comes easily to me.
- There’s time and space for everything I want to do today.
- Work is deeply fulfilling for me. I follow my higher instincts and listen to my heart in all that I do.
- At this very moment, enormous power is available to me. I choose to feel worthy and deserving.
- Today I remind myself that all I need to do is keep my thinking in line with my goals. The Universe will do the rest.
What If Affirmations Don’t Feel True?
Here’s what almost always happens when you begin doing loving affirmations: at first, you feel like a fraud!
It’s perfectly natural. If you currently hate your 9-5 job, you’re going to feel like you’re in complete denial if you start saying the affirmation, “My work is deeply fulfilling for me.” You’ll feel the resistance in saying the loving affirmation. And you’ll likely notice a lot of thoughts arising along the lines of, “These affirmations are crazy and fake and they’ll never work.”
Know that this resistance happens to everyone when they first learn about affirmation practice. And try these two techniques to get past it:
Understand That A Loving Affirmation is a Seed
Imagine you’re given bag of sunflower seeds. It seems so tiny and insignificant, you can hold it in the palm of your hand. The seeds don’t amount to much more than a few grains of sand. And yet. You already know that if you carefully plant those seeds and give them plenty of access to fresh water, sunlight, and nutrient-rich soil, the seeds will grow. Within a matter of a few months, you’ll have an entire garden of jaw-dropping, stunning sunflowers. They’ll grow to such enormous proportions, they’ll actually tower over you.
This sunflower seed metaphor is the symbol you should always keep in mind when you’re practicing loving affirmations.
Empowering affirmations aren’t true at first. But they are seeds and, with daily nurturing and attention, they will grow to become true over time. It requires dedication and patience to overcome deeply rooted patterns of thought like, “I never have enough money,” or “I’m always so disorganized.” So whenever you feel like you’re lying to yourself with your empowering affirmation, remember what a sunflower seed grows into with just a little daily effort!
Add This Key Phrase to Your Loving Affirmation
Here’s another thing you can do when you feel resistance in saying your loving affirmation:
Add the phrase, “What would it feel like if ….” to your affirmation.
For example, “What would it feel like if my work was deeply fulfilling for me?” You can close your eyes, take a couple of deep breaths, and say the affirmation out loud. Then give yourself a few moments to envision yourself in that scenario. Feel the emotions of doing deeply fulfilling work.
Adding this key phrase to your affimations will always help you release resistance and open your mind to new possibilities.
The affirmation will no longer feel like a lie, but instead a potential new pathway or direction for your life.