This month we will consider the power of affirmations. As a solution focused practitioner, I am committed to helping people identify the solutions that are right for them, providing a safe, nurturing and non-judgemental package of support to improved wellbeing, so I am an advocate of positive thought.

Why use positive affirmations?

Often people will present with a challenge that they are unable to defuse from and all too often this will manifest as a negative and intrusive thoughts that seem compelled to undermine personal efforts to resolve the situation. These negative and intrusive thoughts often leave people feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and defeated leading to increased feelings of frustration, worry and sadness. So, can affirmations help proverbially loosen the lid on the bottle to a positive thought?

Well yes there is empirical evidence to show that affirmations can decrease health-deteriorating stress, increase physical behaviour, promote the intention to change for the better, increase academic achievement and lower stress. As Dolly Parton says, ‘You can do it, just use your mind’ (2017) in her song of the same name and this is, in essence, is the power of positive thought, that in essence, is affirmation.

What are positive affirmations?

Affirmations are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.

It can seem too simplistic to simply ‘think ourselves positive’ but, if you are reading this article, you are curious and therefore considering making a change for your own personal reason(s). Affirmations can help ‘oil the gears’, getting your thinking ‘up to speed’ so that you are better equipped to challenge any negative of unhelpful thoughts that, can accompany the positive changes we seek to implement for our lives.

How do positive affirmations change behaviour?

The science behind affirmation in neurological terms is clear. Those who are more positive of thought will have a more active pre-frontal cortex. An ‘up-regulating’ prefrontal cortex ensures the hypothalamus produces more serotonin, more serotonin ensures a more active prefrontal cortex, a positive fuelling for change, allowing you to see a clearer path towards that best version of you.

When the prefrontal cortex is engaged, we are able to make a proper assessment, identify the right solutions and commit to action, by implementing the necessary ‘small steps’ towards the change we seek.

Consider this, if you wished to run a marathon, learn a foreign language or paint a sunrise it will require you to practice in order to achieve that goal. You cannot run 26 miles, converse fluently in French or capture the essence of a sunrise ‘straight out of the gate’, one must build their physical condition, linguistic function or that deft touch in using a paint brush. This takes practice and practice takes time. Affirmations take practice and practice takes time.

How do I use positive affirmations in daily practice?

To help you with your affirmation practice consider keeping a journal. Journaling has been shown to aid in the practice of practicing. Use the journal as a platform to formalise your own affirmations. Oprah Winfrey, an advocate of affirmation, has said

‘Good riddance to decisions that don’t support self-care, self-value, and self-worth.’

and

‘Everything passes if you learn to hold things lightly.’

I especially align to the ‘Everything passes if you learn to hold things lightly’, although I would replace ‘if’ with ‘when’ as, for me, it optimises the positive framing required of all affirmations. Affirmations are a statement of intent, your own ‘strapline’ a keystone for the building of positive thought.

Language is key to understanding the world and how we interact with it. Affirmations provide the time and space to think about the statement that affirms your life. The affirmation shared by Oprah is right for her, but it does not assume that it is right for me. My semantic change of ‘if’ to ‘when’ is more a reflection of my own affirmation. This is not simply about good or bad grammar rather, it reflects my desire to affirm my intent, I remove the ambiguity in my version of this affirmation; Everything passes when you learn to hold things lightly, making it more ‘personal’ so that I can own the affirmation.

How do I start to write my own personal affirmations?

In considering what affirmation is personal for you reflect on further examples shared by Oprah. These examples are only intended to provide you with a framework, a starter for ten, however, an affirmation must be personal to you, your situation, your context. Affirmations cannot be prescribed; affirmations are a construct of your mind and your mind alone. It is not a prerequisite to share your affirmation with anyone else for affirmations are ‘you time’, time that you dedicate to affirming your life, your experience your aspiration.

Affirmations can be a catalyst for positive thinking, a gateway to being kinder to yourself. Affirmations give you the permission to think, act and interact more positively. By disciplining ourselves to think, act and interact with the world around us more positively, we can choose to start our day in a more positive frame of mind, enabling that all important flow of serotonin. By making affirmations part of your ‘everyday’ you make a small step towards greater control, confidence and compassion for your life. Having greater control results in you thinking, feeling and behaving more positively and who doesn’t want that for 2021?

Thank you for reading the blogs throughout 2020, my sincere wish is that it has helped. So, until 2021 be kind to yourself, stay well and have a wonderful Christmas time!.

Brett Rennolds is a qualified psychotherapist DSFH, HPD, MNCH NCH Supervisor and registered with the Complimentary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).  Brett specialises in a solution-focused approach, complimented by the principles of CBT, ACT, mental health first aid and hypnotherapy.  He continues to provide therapy online, via an encrypted platform.  For more information please visit his website.

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