Ever stood in front of a mirror before a nerve-wracking event, like a job interview or a first date, and told yourself ‘I can do this’ over and over again? If you have, then you’ve repeated an affirmation.

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are simply positive phrases written in the first person that are repeated many times, in a bid to change the way we see ourselves and the world.

With the self-help industry experiencing a boom, affirmations have become an increasingly popular personal development practice. You don’t have to look too far to find people raving about their benefits. You'll see people claiming they rewire our beliefs at a subconscious level and help us develop mindsets that empower us to achieve our goals.

What does the science say?

So can we really shift limiting beliefs and drown out our insecurities by repeating positive words and phrases?

Scientifically speaking, results are mixed. A 2015 research paper suggests that affirmations may prompt positive behaviour change. According to the researchers, “Self-affirmations can restore self-competence by allowing individuals to reflect on sources of self-worth.”

And a study published in 2016 found that replacing worries with “positive ideation” could be used to counter worry.

The bad news about affirmations

But a 2009 study concluded that affirmations might not be beneficial for everyone, or could even backfire. Researchers discovered that people with low self-esteem who repeated a positive affirmation felt worse than those who didn’t, while those with high self-esteem felt only slightly better

How to get started with affirmations

Still want to give affirmations a try? There is no hard and fast rule as to how you should use them.

But it's generally suggested that your affirmations are in the first person, and are are a short, memorable phrase said in the present tense.

For example, many affirmations start with the words ‘I am’. So if confidence is your goal, you could use an affirmation like ‘I am calm, confident, and capable’. If you’re gearing up for an interview, you could try ‘I am the perfect candidate for this job’.

How often should I repeat my affirmations?

Some people say affirmations over and over again first thing in the morning when they are showering or getting dressed. You might like to turn to them when you’re feeling insecure, lost, or in a low mood, or repeat them at regular intervals throughout the day.

It's not working

Given affirmations a whirl and it's not working for you? Core beliefs are things we take as fact that aren't, generally developed from our experiences as a child. They are deeply entrenched in our unconscious mind. And if ours are negative, it's hard to shift them just through repeating positive phrases.

In this case we need to dig a little deeper, learning to recognise these limiting beliefs, then processing the memories and experiences that formed them. And for this we can use support, such as working with a talk therapist.

Time to dig out and change the stubborn beliefs that hold you back? Use our easy booking tool not to find your perfect therapist and start talking your way forward.

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