What are positive affirmations and how do they work?
September 24, 2021
“I will be the best version of myself today… My faults don’t define me… I appreciate myself for who I am.” These are phrases junior Freya Brokken says to herself daily known as affirmations.
Affirmations are positive statements people repeatedly tell themselves to overcome any challenges they may be facing.
Although many may look at this practice from afar and categorize it as pseudoscience, there is scientific evidence to back up the theory that this practice can help. The reward center of the brain is activated when affirmations are practiced, acording to a study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. It isn’t a coincidence or a miracle that these phrases start to hold truth, but rather a person’s own subconscious adjusting.
Using positive affirmations is one way to encourage self-compassion and awareness. You are often replacing an inner critic with an inner coach.”
— Susanna Short
Affirmations are changing the way someone’s brain normally thinks into a more positive mindset. This shift of thoughts takes time to develop and to become effective, but once it is, it can help with many internal blocks a person is facing. “There is evidence that consistent use of positive affirmations actually changes neural pathways in the brain. When we learn to think differently about ourselves we often make positive relational and behavioral changes that result in an upward spiral,” Upper School counselor Susanna Short said.
“It’s not like I think affirmations work magic or anything, but they change the way I perceive myself. I am able to think of myself in a more positive and more accurate way,” said Brokken.
It is important to note that affirmations are used for mental barriers and that they are not magic. If someone has a broken arm, a couple of positive affirmations a day will not keep the doctor away. “I don’t really think about the fact that I’m using affirmations, it’s more so just being nice to myself and believing in myself. It helps me manage my thoughts if I’m feeling unsure or insecure about anything,” junior Jack O’Brien said.
Besides using these positive phrases to be productive, many people also lean on them to help people deal with their insecurities. “Using positive affirmations is one way to encourage self-compassion and awareness. You are often replacing an inner critic with an inner coach. When done intentionally and consistently-it really does work,” said Short.
Learning how to use positive affirmations to benefit oneself can be a very useful skill, but larger issues should still receive the amount of attention they deserve, and should not be brushed away with a sentence. “Consulting with a therapist or counselor is always a good place to start to make sure that there are not serious underlying or social factors causing or exacerbating the negative self-talk,” Short said.
To make affirmations most effective, Short recommends practicing affirmations that feel sincere and using them 3-5 times daily for a prolonged period of time. Affirmations are a simple but impactful solution to problems that most people face today and can be very effective if they are given the time to work.