Positive Affirmations: Definition, Examples, and Exercises
Learn how to use positive statements (positive affirmations) to help shift your mind towards the positive, change your trajectory, and improve your life.
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Do you wish to improve your life and change how you think? One way to do that is by using positive statements about ourselves or our lives—otherwise known as positive affirmations.
What Are Positive Affirmations?
Positive affirmations can be defined as positive phrases or statements that we repeat to ourselves. Generally they are used to manifest goals, dreams, or experiences we desire.
Positive affirmations are hailed as magic in some circles and thought to be pseudoscience in other circles. The reality falls somewhere in between. We do not yet know whether positive affirmations create "vibrations" or "energy" that help us manifest what we desire. But we do know that affirmations involve and rely on many scientifically studied psychological processes—processes that are supported by the research.
For example, self-fulling prophecies show us that when we believe something will come true, it is more likely to. And neuroplasticity research shows us that by focusing on something, we strengthen those regions of the brain and make them stronger. We can even strengthen the positive neural pathways in the brain decreasing reliance on negative, well-worn pathways in the brain.
This science may sound complex, but making use of this science by practicing positive affirmations is easy. All you need to do is pick a phrase and repeat it in your mind. With the tips below you can make sure you pick the positive affirmation that is likely to do you the most good.
How To Start Using Positive Affirmations
To start, pay attention to which thoughts, emotions, or behavior are working against your best interests. If you need some help identifying problematic practices, our well-being quiz can help you identify your trouble spots.
But be careful, because repeating just any ol' positive affirmation will likely not result in significant change. If we want our positive affirmations to be successful, we need to learn how to construct positive affirmations in the right ways. This way, our positive affirmations are more likely to lead to more positive actions, emotions, and experiences. So keep these tips in mind when constructing positive affirmations.
1. Speak and Repeat Positive Affirmations Out Loud
Speaking reinforces our learning and increases the likelihood of our subconscious actually hearing our request. Adding other senses can help even further. For instance, lighting a candle or a stick of incense each time you repeat your affirmations is a way of linking the positive affirmation to other anchors in your environment. In time, just the light from that candle or smell from that incense can activate the regions of your brain associated with the positive affirmation. By creating a habit like this that is repeated consistently and linked with the affirmations, you are building neural connections that can make the affirmation stronger.
Here's a Video on How to Do Your Affirmations Out Load
2. Use the Present Tense When Saying Positive Affirmations
Concepts like “soon” or “later” or “better" lack clarity and can allow your affirmation to lose focus and efficacy. So keep your positive affirmations simple, and construct your sentences in the present tense. For example, “I am healthy and happy” rather than “I will be happy soon”. It's more of a reassurance than a goal. By being clear and indicating in the phrase that we already are or have what we desire, we start generating the emotions that come from the statement actually being true.
Try These "I Am" Affirmations
3. Avoid negatives in positive affirmations
Be careful not to use negatives in your affirmations. For example, if your positive affirmation states, “I am not sick anymore," your mindset is focusing on avoidance (of the bad) rather than approach (of the good). Similarly, a statement such as “I am done with toxic relationships” might backfire because it focuses on bad relationships, not good ones. Instead, focus your affirmation on the most positive outcome.
The goal of your positive affirmations is to state your desires as real, without focusing on your dissatisfactions. Choose your message carefully to ensure your words speak to the positive present and future you want to create.
4. Create positive affirmations that are meaningful to you
Some generic affirmations like "I am confident" or "I am happy" can feel a bit inauthentic, generating some friction between the words and your current feelings about yourself. If you're feeling this way, try generating affirmations that feel true to you. Perhaps, "I am capable of manifesting my dreams", or "I am someone who can accept love into my life". Affirmations can be very individual and their success may in part depend on how these words resonate with you as a unique individual.
Here's Some Affirmations That Focus Specifically on Love
5. Craft positive affirmations that are specific, simple, and direct
Your conscious mind knows what it wants but it needs agreement from your unconscious mind. So be as specific as you can be. For example, you could say “I make $100,000 a year running my own purpose-driven business. I feel like I'm making a difference and I have plenty of time to spend with friends and loved ones.” Once you have a detailed positive affirmation that you feel good about, try it out and see how it makes you feel. If it doesn’t make you feel better, rework your affirmation until it does.
6. Fill your positive affirmations with passion
Positive affirmations that are full of emotion and genuine belief have a greater impact. Feeling the change you want to experience helps your positive affirmations work. So try this out: Say the following: “I am happy.” Now stop and think about a time when you were really happy and get in touch with that feeling. Really try to savor that feeling and get the most from it that you can.
Now say “I am happy” and really exude what happiness feels like as you make your statement. By filling your affirmations with positive emotions, they can be much more effective in bringing about what you desire.
7. Add visualizations to your positive affirmations
Use your conscious mind to design a scene that supports your positive affirmations. This practice or visualization is a great way to get your message across to your subconscious mind about what you want. For example, if you’re shopping for a house, visualize the house of your dreams, whether a cozy cabin in the woods or a mansion on the hill, and make it real in your mind with all the details, feelings, smells, sounds, and colors. The clearer you can see what you are dreaming of manifesting, the better your affirmation can support it.
Here Is a Wealth and Money Visualization to Try:
8. Ground your positive affirmations in your body
Use facial expressions, gung-ho gestures, thumbs-up, affirmative sounds like “Whoah!” or “Yes I can!”, clap your hands, or jump up and down. Another way to get your message into your body is to exercise or take walk while repeating your affirmations. The mental-somatic connections in the brain are thus reinforced and can provide greater support to your positive affirmation.
9. Take action on your positive affirmations
Ground your positive affirmations in reality by taking some action. If it’s a job you are looking for, send out some resumes. If you want to be more fit, say your affirmations as you walk or drive to the gym for a work-out. If you want to have a business you love, start building it. Actions speak even louder than words.
10. Stick to your positive affirmations
It takes time to reprogram your brain. Remind yourself to do your positive affirmations by putting up sticky note reminders around your home, or paint a rock as a trigger-reminder, or change your cellphone lock screen. Every time you see it or just think of your object, state out loud your positive affirmation.
You could also send yourself a postcard, or place a reminder in your digital calendar to do your positive affirmation. Most importantly, be consistent and persistent.
Here's a Positive Affirmation Exercise for While You Sleep
Keep up the Positive Affirmations
Keep trying affirmations until you find what works. And remember, be kind to yourself as you work to improve your life.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.