Positive affirmations, also known as self-affirmations, affirm one’s self-worth. This is often by reflecting on core values, which can give us a wider view of the self. This can allow us to move past specific threats to self-integrity or self-competence (Cascio et al., 2016). Essentially, positive affirmations help us remember our worth and our wonderful unique traits! They help us to affirm what is good about us; what we value in ourselves, which comes in handy in hard times, too.
Some of my favourites are:
“I am exactly where I need to be”
“I am worthy of love and kindness from myself and others”
“This too shall pass”
In more psychological and scientific terms; Self-affirmations, is actually common cognitive-behavioral technique. It is based on the theory that individuals tend to find ways to protect their integrity when they feel stressed and threatened, and affirming their self-worth and identity is one method to help them feel emotionally contained and relaxed (Lee et al., 2014).
*Click here for a list from The Oprah Magazine with an awesome list if you need some inspiration! I also like to change it up once in a while, myself.
Why They Are So Popular & We Are Seeing Them Everywhere
Right away, we can see why positive affirmations are so helpful! They give us helpful methods of coping and facilitating self-awareness, and most importantly, self-love, in sustainable and practical ways. We can practice them whenever we need them and can tailor them to what we need from them. We can easily implement them into our routine, and the benefits are scientifically backed:
The Science: Our Brains & Minds
The research on the benefits is widespread! Let’s see what this does to our minds and brains:
Studies show that self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward. There is a large body of literature that explains self-affirmation benefits ranging from decreasing stress, bettering overall well-being, improving academic performance, and allowing individuals to experience a deeper openness to behaviour change in general (Cascio et al., 2016).
Mood & Cognition (information processing)
Verbal self-affirmations (positive self-talk) was found to improve mood and cognition in the general and medical populations in a study that was conducted at an outpatient department of a prominent medical centre.
This study also found that online cognitive brain training is associated with measurable improvements in cognition and emotional well-being
Anxiety, Stress, Depression
A study with 2,752 participants over a 2.5-year period found that games that trained positivity improved scored within anxiety, stress, and depression categories. Further, training in self-regulation, like self-affirmations, found to be beneficial in improved memory, attention, and executive function, and reduced anxiety, stress, and depression levels as well! (Gordon et al., 2013). These initial studies are wonderful indications that naturalistic approaches can be incredibly effective brain training techniques, that help the way we process all the information we take in during a day (cognitively), and how we feel overall (emotionally). This speaks to our neuroplasticity; creating new positive networks in the brain, and new perspectives on life, as well as our subconscious; we more easily think positive thoughts automatically as a result if it is reinforced. In other words, our brains will adapt to these daily practices, and shape the way we perceive our daily lives, our goals, and what is important to us.
Another study by Lee et al. (2014) that investigated self-affirmation intervention after a traumatic brain injury (TMI), where parts of the brain that regulate our normal everyday processes; thinking, strategizing, emotional regulation, etc., may have been effected. The study had 21 adult patients over a 12-month period, and they reported having fewer depressive symptoms, experienced more positive affect, and experienced a higher overall quality of life following the completion of the program.
Summary: Affirmations can positively affect stress levels, overall wellbeing, cognitive perfomance, mood, emotional stability, anxiety and even certain cases of brain damage.
What This Should Mean For Us
Positive affirmations are a great way to help us remember our meaning, our values, and what is important to us. Positive affirmations remind us that we have the power; we get to choose that we are worth it- worth love, worth self-care, and worth the time that we take to give ourselves some attention. They also, literally, help us function better, improving our information processing, memory, emotional regelation, and overall wellbeing. Our brains learn to be primed to be more optimistic, to see things in a more positive light; opportunities instead of challenges. Our brains are plastic; they can grow new networks, and it is important to remember the “use it or lose it” idea! This is a daily practice, keep these networks strong to think positively, especially when times get tough.
This means we can work better, relax better, and be more present over time. It is taking a moment to say “thank you for being you” to yourself. They are such a great part of the self-care routine that consists of your favourite cup of tea, a face mask, a scented candle, or a favourite book! Add in some positive affirmations and you are set for some great moods and an outlook that last, and help you to remember that you are worthy, you are kind, and you are loved.
Written by Alexia Wensing, B.A., MACP (IP)
- Cascio, C. N., O’Donnell, M. B., Tinney, F. J., Lieberman, M. D., Taylor, S. E., Strecher, V. J., & Falk, E. B. (2016). Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation. Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 11(4), 621-629.
- Gordon, E., Palmer, D. M., Liu, H., Rekshan, W., & DeVarney, S. (2013). Online cognitive brain training associated with measurable improvements in cognition and emotional well-being. Technology & Innovation, 15(1), 53-62.
- Lee, Y. S. C., Ashman, T., Shang, A., & Suzuki, W. (2014). Brief report: Effects of exercise and self-affirmation intervention after traumatic brain injury. NeuroRehabilitation, 35(1), 57-65.