What are affirmations and do they work?

What are affirmations

If you spend any time in “New Age” circles, you cannot help but stumble over affirmations. You may hear about how powerful and effective they are, and that you simply have to use them. But what are affirmations, and do they actually work?

This is an easy-to-understand guide to affirmations. It’s backed by scientific data, but also years of research and hands-on experience. You’ll learn what affirmations are, and everything you need to know about making them work for you.

Table of Contents

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are short but powerful statements about a future you desire. Some people say that affirmations are positive statements, but they are really more than that. Instead, think of them as a forceful declaration of a future you desire.

There are affirmations for almost anything you want, like affirmations for health, love, success, money, clear skin, etc., but you can also write your own affirmations. 

Examples of affirmations: 

But while many people swear by affirmations, they are difficult to implement in your life, especially if you are new to affirmations. For example, if you are overweight, you may find it very hard to say to yourself, “I am fit and healthy,” when you know this is not true. You may see it as ridiculous or delusional to say or think something that is blatantly untrue. 

Having said that, positive affirmations are effective, if used properly.

How do affirmations work?

Scientists from the National Science Foundation say that the average human being has 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, around 95% are repetitive, and 80% are negative. That’s a lot of negativity! This is very disturbing if you consider that…

We become what we think about.

But you can try to reverse those negative thoughts, and that’s where positive affirmations come in. With affirmations, you are intentionally trying to turn those negative thoughts into positive ones. In a sense, you are trying to brainwash yourself.

Watch Your Thoughts

And while our thoughts are important, also consider our beliefs and values. Scientists talk about confirmation bias, which is the tendency to look for, favor, interpret and remember information that confirms or supports our beliefs or values. So if you believe you are a fat slob who will never be able to get fit, your brain will find evidence of that belief. Or if you think Republicans are bad, your brain will continually find evidence to confirm your belief. Another common example is if you decide you want to get a Jeep, you suddenly start noticing Jeeps everywhere.

If you have a confirmation bias that does not serve you, the goal with positive affirmations is to switch those negative thoughts or beliefs into positive ones. So that instead of continually finding evidence that supports your negative beliefs, you start seeing support for your new, positive thoughts. 

Positive affirmations are not a quick fix. Rather, they may take months or even years. It took a lifetime to create the beliefs that you have, they cannot be reversed overnight. This can be very off-putting to people, but consider that the time is going to pass, anyway. You can choose to use affirmations and create a better life for yourself in the future, or do nothing, and experience no change in your life. 

What are affirmations

How to use affirmations?

When you start saying affirmations, it will feel weird. You will feel like you are lying to yourself. Persist, because, with regular and continued use, you will start believing your chosen positive affirmations.

Always make your affirmations in the present tense.

Affirmations are effective if you say something as if it has already happened. If you say that you want something, like “I want a new car,” – you will always be in a state of wanting. Instead, you are trying to instruct your subconscious that what you desire already exists – “I love my new Ford.”

Keep it short.

When your affirmations are short, they are easier to remember. 

Be specific.

When you are specific, you make it easier for your mind to visualize the outcome. Instead of saying, “I’m going to use weight,” say “I weight ___.” By doing this, your subconscious mind interprets it as a directive that it must follow through on.

Do not use negatives in your affirmations.

In other words, speak about what you want, not what you don’t want. Scientists say that our subconscious minds do not recognize negatives. So instead of saying “I don’t eat junk food,” say “I eat healthy food.”

Say and think it repeatedly.

You may hear people complain that their affirmations don’t work. Chances are excellent that they said it to themselves a few times over a few days, then they forgot or gave up. Affirmations do not work if you say it and think about it for 5% of your waking hours, then believe the opposite during the remaining part of the day. For example, you are trying to affirm abundance, and you say “I am wealthy,” for a few minutes, but for the rest of the day, you’re worried about how you are going to pay the bills. By being worried about money often, you cancel out the affirmations you did to attract the money.

Believe it.

As mentioned earlier, affirmations are about brainwashing yourself, so with continued and persistent use, the goal is to start believing your affirmations. Affirmations do not work unless you believe them. 

Replace negative thoughts with your affirmations.

Negative thoughts are inevitable. It takes conscious, continued work to reduce them. Be prepared for them and quickly replace them with your positive affirmations. For example, after years of practicing mindfulness and affirmations, I occasionally feel fearful when I open the credit card bill. However, the great thing is that because of years of practice, I immediately recognize the fear, and then I consciously remind myself that “money flows to me in avalanches of abundance.”

Affirmations are about you, not others.

When you create your affirmations, remember that you are doing this for yourself, not for others. 

Do affirmations work?

Yes, they work if you work on yourself. Remember, the goal with affirmations is to change your mindset. This can only happen if you persistently say your affirmations, and you do so to the point where you start to believe them.

As an example, I grew up in a working-class home where my mother got paid monthly on the 25th, and by the 30th, the money was gone. Then from the 1st to 24th, she was borrowing money. In our home, we always knew how far we were from the 25th. I, therefore, grew up with a poverty mindset, and it has taken work and many years for me to switch that. The negative, poverty thoughts do sneak in every now and again, but I quickly and consciously replace them with affirmations like “money flows to me effortlessly”, “I always have more than enough money”, “I have so much money that I can share generously”, and my favorite – “money flows to me in avalanches of abundance.” I strongly believe that it is because of this mindset shift, (thanks to the positive affirmations), that I now live a life free of money problems. 

In short, affirmations can work for you if you put the effort into them.