6 Scientific Benefits to the Practice of Affirmations
While you are probably familiar with the idea behind affirmations, you may not be familiar with exactly how they work. There is a lot of science behind using affirmations.
The idea behind affirmations, also known as auto suggestion, is not a new concept. Research done in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry reveals that neurotransmitters in the brain are affected by affirmations and affirmations help set positive pathways.
According to the same research, our beliefs are intertwined with emotions, both conscious and unconscious. This research also found “that the emotional brain is no longer confined to the classical locales of the hippocampus, amygdala, and hypothalamus.”
What does that really mean you might ask? It all comes down to the age-old concept of thoughts become things.
The information we receive from our environment is received into our senses before going through a unique process of filtering.
These inputs travel across one or more synapses in the brain ultimately reaching the area of higher processing, like the frontal lobes. This is the point in time in which the sensory information then enters our conscious awareness.
The magic lies in the fact that much of this is determined by our beliefs. When we choose to change our thoughts, the neurochemicals in our brain burst, causing a reaction. As a result, we become much more open and receptive to other pieces of sensory information that may have previously been blocked by our beliefs.
In other words, when we change our thinking, we change our beliefs. When we change our beliefs, we change our behavior.
That is where affirmations come into play. When you repeat an affirmation, you begin changing your thinking. The more you repeat something, the more you change your beliefs. When you start changing your beliefs, you then start changing your behavior. It’s really a beautiful process.
The Theory Behind Positive Affirmations
There is also a psychological theory behind positive affirmations. This theory, known as self-affirmation theory, is based on the idea that we can maintain our sense of self-integrity by continually telling ourselves, or rather affirming, that we believe in positive ways.
Our self-integrity is also related to our sense of global self-efficacy, or our perceived ability to control moral outcomes and respond in a flexible manner when our self-concept is threatened in some way.
The Many Benefits of Affirmations
Now that you know more about the science behind affirmations, it’s important to also be aware of the scientific benefits.
Here are six benefits to repeating affirmations:
- Affirmations have been shown to decrease stress that might cause health to deteriorate.
- Affirmations are effective when used within interventions.
- Affirmations may help us perceive otherwise “threatening” messages with less resistance.
- Affirmations can make us less likely to dismiss harmful health messages, helping us respond in a way that causes us to want to change for the better.
- Affirmations have also been positively linked to academic achievements, helping students by mitigating GPA decline.
- Affirmations have also been demonstrated to lower stress and rumination.
Positive affirmations work by helping us respond in a less defensive way when we are presented with threats. On a more general level, they can also help us become more resilient to difficulties when they do arise.
Affirmations are obviously meant to help encourage us and help us maintain an optimistic mindset. Optimism itself can be very powerful in terms of helping us make changes that last.
When we repeat an affirmation, we help reduce the occurrence of negative thoughts. Replacing negative thoughts with more positive thoughts helps us change our narrative and the way we look at things.
Affirmations are a wonderful tool for helping you feel more positive and they may even be able to heal the body.
While there are no specific rules for how often to repeat affirmations, according to psychotherapist Ronald Alexander of the Open Mind Training Institute, affirmations can be repeated anywhere from 3-5 times a day to help reinforce positive belief.
One great way to practice affirmations is by choosing a few and writing them down in a journal of some kind and then repeating them in front of a mirror.
The more you use affirmations, the better they will work. If the process of creating affirmations seems overwhelming for you, the best plan of action is to start by creating 3-5 statements that are aligned with some kind of positive change you want to make.
Commit to repeating your affirming statements 3-5 times a day and see how they work for you. If you are looking for a place to start you can try some simple statements like these:
- I can choose to feel good.
- I rise above negative and hurtful thoughts.
- I am resilient and strong.
- I am in charge of my life.
- I love and accept myself, always.
- My life supports me.
- I deserve all the happiness and joy I receive.
- I love my body.
- I make positive contributions to the world.
- I can do this!
The best way to create affirmations that are personalized is to write down a few things you are struggling with. Once you have a few things listed, you can then turn the statements around, so they are positive statements that support your life. When creating affirmations, make sure and state things in the present tense, as if you had already achieved them.
Repeat your affirmations as often as you can throughout the day. You might be surprised at how well they work.
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By Leslie Riopel