.Affirmations For Personal Growth And Self Improvement

Dr. Thomas D. Yarnell
Clinical Psychologist
Life Coach

Affirmations: How And Why They Work To Help You Change.
      An affirmation is a statement that you make to yourself.  Everyone uses them intentionally or unintentionally.  You wake up in the morning, jump out of bed and exclaim "I feel great".  That is a positive affirmation.  You drag yourself out of bed in the morning and whimper "I feel rotten".  That is a negative affirmation.  Both statements help to maintain the emotional state you are in.
Our self-talk, the things we say to ourself, is very important because it directly effects our conscious and subconscious mind.  We listen to everything we say to ourself.
Because our affirmations work so well to maintain the state of mind we are in, we can use them to change that state of mind. True, it takes more work to change how we think and feel, but, if you follow these guidelines, the use of affirmations can become a strong, useful tool for helping yourself become happier and healthier.

Here are the four basic guidelines for developing good affirmations:

     ** The first guideline is that the affirmation should be stated in the present tense.  Start with words like "I am ...  " or "I have ... ". You want to be telling your mind that it is taking place now. 
      ** Next, the affirmation should relate that what you want is already accomplished.  "I am happy now" is superior to and will work better than "I am becoming happy" or "I will be happy".     
     ** The affirmation should be positive.  " I feel safe" works but the affirmation " I am not scared" does the opposite of what you want.  It focuses your mind on the word "scared" and increases that feeling.  It is as if the word "not" didn't even exist.

     ** The affirmation should be in your style of language.  I found the following affirmation on a calendar.  "Energy, enthusiasm, and sparkling health are my birthright.  I accept these priceless treasures with gratitude, knowing that as I give out energy, more rushes in."
      This is a very poetic affirmation and I totally agree with the  basic sentiment and philosophy in it.  The problem is that I do not speak or think in this way.  My mind would have difficulty accepting this affirmation because it just doesn't sound like me.  If, however, it is the way you think, by all means use it.
If I wanted to use this affirmation I would change it into my words.  "I deserve to have energy, enthusiasm and good health.  I accept all of life's gifts.  The more energy I use, the more I will have."  This is more like the way I speak and think.

What should my affirmations be about?

Your affirmations can include how you would like to feel: "I am energetic; I feel wonderful; or I feel safe".  Your affirmations can include how you would like your life to be: "I am a prosperous person; I attract positive people into my life; I lose weight easily, I stop smoking now, I release my anger, I release my fear and anxiety, or I solve problems easily".  Another way to develop affirmations is to use them to counter your negative self-talk.  When you catch yourself saying something negative to yourself, develop an affirmation that counteracts the negative thought and start using it until you feel differently about yourself.

      Let's say you are working on a project.  The project doesn't have to be a work project, it can be an interpersonal problems or just some personal problem you are trying to solve.  You can't seem to figure out what to do or you run into a snag of some sort.  All of a sudden your confidence sags and you catch yourself thinking "I can't do this.  I bit off more than I can do.  I'm just not smart enough."
      All this negative thinking, if allowed to persist, will guarantee that you fail.  Instead, make up some affirmations to counter this thinking.  For example, you might use "I feel confident, I am a success, I do things now and I think clearly".  I would repeat each affirmation five times three or four times during the day until I felt better about myself and about completing the project.

      Affirmations have been used since humans have had language. We use affirmations now to help us lose weight and stop smoking. We use affirmations to build our self-confidence and self-esteem. We use affirmations to help us get out of depression and to relieve our anger. We use them to control our fear and anxiety and for stress management. Affirmations are used successfully in all areas of personal growth and self improvement.
      Once you have your affirmations, there are a number of ways you can use them.  There is no one right way.  Here are some of the ways that have proven successful.
      The easiest way might be to select four or five affirmations, write them on an index card and repeat them silently or out loud during the day.  Here are a few guidelines that will also help.  If you are actively using the affirmations, keep the number to a maximum of six.  When you are repeating the affirmations, repeat each one four or five times before moving on to the next one.  When repeating the affirmations, put some feeling into it and think about what you are trying to accomplish.  Repeating the affirmation out loud is better than doing it silently as you also hear it when it's out loud.  If you are in a situation where you can't repeat it out loud, do it silently.  That is still better than not doing it at all.
      Do your affirmations soon after you wake up as it will help focus your day.  Do your affirmations just before   going to sleep as it will be working in your subconscious mind all night.  You should also try to fit in your affirmations two or three more times during the day.  When you fit them in isn't important as long as they are spaced out during the day.  This takes advantage of two important principles in psychology. 
How do I use my affirmations?
Sample Affirmations

Here are some examples of good personal growth and self improvement affirmations.
** To lose weight: I am slim and trim; I only eat when I'm hungry; I lose weight easily.
** To stop smoking: I breathe clean, fresh air; I am stronger than any habit.
** For depression: I am a worthwhile person; I attract joy into my life.
** For anger: I feel wonderful today; I have peace of mind.
** For fear and anxiety: I am safe and secure; I am confident; I feel wonderful.
** For stress management: All the above.

     Our mind learns fastest with what is called "massed practice". Repeating the same affirmation five times in a row is "massed practice".  The problem is that it also produces quick forgetting.  "Spaced practice", the  process of repeating all the affirmations three or more times during the day, produces slow learning and slow forgetting.  Combining both "massed and spaced" practice gives us the best of both: fast learning and slow forgetting.
      Saying it with feeling adds another psychological dimension to the affirmation.  Any thought that has an emotion attached to it will have a greater impact on our mind that an idea devoid of feeling.
      Another variation you can use to strengthen the effect of the affirmation is to add a visualization to it.  This will make your affirmation significantly more effective.  Do this by taking one of your affirmation sessions and instead of saying the affirmations, close your eyes and visualize yourself doing or being like the affirmation says.  The visualization adds another dimension of power to your affirmation.
      You should also use your affirmations whenever you catch yourself using negative self-talk.  Start repeating your positive affirmations as soon as possible.
      Used correctly, affirmations for personal growth and self improvement can help you relieve your depression, anxiety and fear and anger.  They can help you lose weight as well as quit smoking.  Affirmations will help you build your self-confidence, self-esteem and assertiveness and they are an excellent tool for stress management.

      One problem many people have is impatience.  They use their affirmations on and off for a week or two and nothing happens so they quit.  It took us a long time to become the way we are.  Give your affirmations at least a serious 30 day try.  If what you are trying to change is a serious problem, you will probably need more than 30 days.  You might even need more than affirmations to produce the changes you seek.
      Affirmations are just one of the tools of change.  Most of us will need more than one tool and longer than one month.  Used correctly, however, affirmations are a good tool and they do help us change, grow and heal.  As you use your affirmations you will become more conscious of your thoughts, feelings and behavior and you will start thinking and feeling better about yourself.  As this happens, your behavior will begin to change in the direction you are trying to go.  Don't give up because you are gaining greater and greater control of your thoughts, feelings and behavior.

Copyright   2005 - 2008 Dr. Thomas Yarnell, Clinical Psychologist  All rights reserved.

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