How To Use Affirmations (So They Actually Work)
Affirmations are more than fluffy, feel-good words meant to lift you up for a single moment; affirmations are empowering statements that give you the courage and confidence to take back your story while serving and supporting your entire wellbeing. I can personally attest to this as the use of daily affirmations has completely changed my life for the better. Below, I give you my complete guide for how to use affirmations so that they actually work for you.
What Are Affirmations?
Positive affirmations are present-tense statements that are designed to uplift and encourage while boosting self-belief and supporting your overall wellbeing.
I say positive affirmations because truly, an affirmation is anything you affirm to yourself. So when you affirm something negative about yourself, like “I can’t do this,” or, “I’m not (smart, creative, beautiful, kind, generous, worthy) enough,” you’re still stating an affirmation.
But that isn’t the type of affirmation that will boost your self-belief and support your overall wellbeing. And it’s not the type of affirmation we’re going to be talking about here today.
So for the purpose of this post, anytime you see the word affirmation, know that I mean the positive, uplifting kind.
Below, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to use affirmations so that they actually work: how they’re structured, the different types of affirmations, how to use them, plus bonus tips and tricks for making them work for you.
But first: why?
Does any of this even matter? Do affirmations actually work?
Do Affirmations Really Work?
If you have any hesitation about whether affirmations actually work, I totally get it. I was there, too. When I started consciously incorporating affirmations in my daily life, I knew I really liked the positive words I was affirming to myself, and I knew it felt good, but I had no idea whether this practice actually had any long-term effects.
But it turns out, there’s actual science to back up the claim that affirmations can have a profound positive effect on your life.
Multiple studies have shown that affirmations light up the reward centers in your brain – the same ones that beam when you bite into a decadent cookie or treat yourself to a Target trip. (Okay, I don’t know if that last part is an actual thing. But Target sure feels pretty darn rewarding.)12
But why does this matter?
Because the more we train our minds to do this, the more resilient our brains become. You know how another person’s criticism of you might sometimes make you feel upset, defensive, and possibly even angry? Or how you might feel really flustered and mad at yourself when you make a mistake?
By using affirmations, you’re essentially training your brain to remain calm and balanced when these perceived threats arise. You’re better able to regulate your emotions, and you’re less likely to have purely emotional reactions to criticism and negativity.
I like to call this owning your story.
The truth is, our brains aren’t always as smart as we think they are. That’s why they’re so susceptible to subliminal advertising. Subliminal advertising is when external forces plant ideas and thoughts into your brain through visual and auditory cues; your conscious brain can’t perceive these cues, so they slip beyond your perception and may cause you to buy a product or service, believing it was entirely your idea.
But when you use positive affirmations, you’re now in the driver’s seat of your own mind.
You decide how you think and behave. You choose the story you consciously cultivate for yourself. You create your present-day experience through your mindful, chosen thoughts.
And I don’t know if any of this next part is based in science, but here’s what I can tell you about my personal experience:
Affirmations have absolutely changed my life for the better. I used to spend my mornings replaying negative experiences in my head, or imagining worst-case-scenarios for my future. I used to worry all of the time. And I used to think that I somehow had to make myself “better” to be loved. I needed to be smarter, prettier, friendlier, wittier . . . the list goes on. The mountaintop holding my worthiness was tall and steep, and I was pretty sure I was never going to get there.
Not only do I no longer do or believe any of those things, but I can confidently state that using affirmations gave me the courage and confidence to step out into my purpose, find my voice, and let my authentic self be seen for the first time in my life.
I promise, you have nothing to lose from incorporating affirmations into your life and absolutely everything to gain.
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How to Structure an Affirmation
The classic intro to any positive affirmation is two simple yet powerful words:
It’s likely you’ve seen some of these “I am” statements on your Pinterest and Instagram feeds, or in books, magazines, and other media sources. Above is a list of some simple yet powerful “I am” affirmations.
The reason “I am” is the standard format for most affirmations is because it’s a strong, present-tense intro to your chosen affirmation. For instance, when you say, “I am worthy,” you’re asserting that you are worthy right now. Your worthiness isn’t coming at a future date; it’s yours, right now, and it’s inherent to your very being. Nobody can ever take that away from you. Worthiness is your birthright.
This is powerful stuff.
While many affirmations start with, “I am,” there are other ways to start your affirmation and still retain its power. The most important thing is to always keep it in the present tense.
Here are some examples of other ways you might start an affirmation:
- I can . . .
- I accept . . .
- My (life, heart, body, worthiness) . . .
- I release . . .
- I have . . .
- All is . . .
- Everything is . . .
- I feel . . .
Want more affirmations? Be sure to check out my free ebook, 400 Powerful Affirmations Designed to Uplift, Inspire, and Empower Your Highest Self.
Future Pacing Affirmations vs. Mindset Affirmations
In my experience, I’ve noticed two similar yet distinct types of affirmations show up in the self-development, self-love, and Law of Attraction spaces.
Neither one of these types is the “right” or “wrong” way to do affirmations. They’re simply different. You might incorporate both types into your practice, or you might choose to focus on one or the other, depending on what feels right to you.
Future Pacing Affirmations
Future Pacing Affirmations are the types of affirmations you might use in a visualization practice. When using these types of affirmations, you’re asserting that your desired manifestation, dream, and/or goal has already come true.
Below are a few examples of Future Pacing Affirmations. In each of these examples, imagine that the person saying these affirmations doesn’t actually have these things in their present experience, but they’re asserting that they do.
- I am a successful entrepreneur making $10,000 a month. Clients are lining up to work with me, and I am continuing to achieve more success every single day.
- I am married to the love of my life. We live a beautiful, quiet life in the countryside with acres of land and a house large enough to grow our family. My partner loves, protects, and supports me unconditionally. I feel so grateful and lucky every single day to live this life.
- I am a thriving college graduate. I graduated at the top of my class, and now companies are fighting with each other to hire me. I’m getting six-figure offers and that number is only going up!
Jack Canfield gives some really great tips and examples for Future Pacing Affirmations here. (Note that he simply calls them affirmations. Future Pacing is a term I use to differentiate them from Mindset Affirmations.)
Mindset Affirmations are what I tend to use, and these are likely the ones you most often see on your Pinterest and Instagram feeds. These are the types of affirmations you use to cultivate a positive mindset at any time of the day. The “I am” affirmations in the image a couple sections above are all mindset affirmations.
Here are some examples of mindset affirmations:
- I am capable, competent, and courageous.
- I am radiant, powerful, beautiful, and brave.
- I believe in myself wholeheartedly.
- There’s no limit to what I can achieve.
- I am committed to my goals.
- I have the courage to take big leaps.
- I choose to live my life with a positive mindset.
- I love and accept myself for exactly the person I am right now.
Do you want more positive affirmations? Check out 100 Amazingly Powerful Affirmations to Change Your Life from the incredible and inspiring Liz in Lotus. Liz provides 100 inspiring affirmations broken down into four sections: Money, Love, Self-Love, and Health. Don’t miss Liz’s post to feel uplifted and inspired today!
How to Use Affirmations
So all of this info is helpful, but how the heck do you actually use affirmations so they really work?
Here are my tips and best practices for how to effectively use affirmations:
Feel the Emotions of the Affirmation
Affirmations are strong, powerful affirming statements. Even the gentler, softer affirmations possess an inherent power to them. This is because, no matter what type of affirmation you’re using, you’re consciously choosing to take back your story.
To the external world, an affirmation such as, “I am worthy,” might sound like fluff. But if you’re standing in front of the mirror, looking yourself in the eyes, asserting to yourself, I am worthy . . . that’s an unbelievably powerful moment for you.
Even though affirmations are technically words, they don’t actually start on your tongue or if your mind.
Before anything else, an affirmation starts in the body. Beyond the actual words, affirmations are feelings and emotions.
You’re not just saying, I am worthy. You’re truly feeling a sense of undeniable worthiness.
If you say, I am capable, competent, and courageous, then truly feel these words in your bones.
You might get a tingle along your neck or a little swirl inside your chest. Trust these feelings. This means you’re on the right path.
Stay in the Present Tense
I said this above, but it’s worth repeating.
I am worthy.
Not, I will be worthy when I finally land my dream job.
Not, I’ll be worthy when I lose “x” amount of weight.
And not, I’ll finally be worthy when I find a partner who loves me.
No. No. No.
You are worthy. Right now. Just as you are. You are worthy now, even as you continue to grow and learn and evolve. You are worthy now, even if you make mistakes. You are worthy without conditions. Worthiness is your birthright. Nobody gets to own your worth except you. You. Are. Worthy. Always.
Now take those words, and apply them to all positive affirmations that you use.
Use Affirmations Throughout the Day
You might have a morning journaling routine in which you incorporate affirmations, or you might choose three affirmations to recite every night before bed. These are really, really awesome practices.
Just don’t save your affirmation practice for only these moments.
I love to use affirmations in the morning to create a positive foundation for the day, and I also love to use affirmations at night to cultivate a sense of peace and tranquility before bed.
But often times, it’s those moments in the middle of the day when I need them the most.
Have a list of empowering affirmations handy for life’s more stressful and difficult moments. You can keep these affirmations in your head, on your phone, or on a piece of paper.
You might also write your affirmations on post-it notes and stick them up around your work station or on your bathroom mirror.
You can even set notifications on your phone to pop up in the middle of the day with some empowering affirmations written on them.
Choose frustrating moments to recite affirmations instead of taking a deep dive into negativity. Stuck at a red light? Waiting in line at the grocery store? Negative thoughts won’t make that red light turn green, nor will they make that line move any faster.
So instead, consciously choose the direction of your thoughts so that they serve and support your total wellbeing.
This is how you take back your story and start creating the life of your dreams: with the knowledge and power to choose your thoughts in every moment of every day.
Don’t Force It (AKA The Ladder Method)
Now, I want to take a step back.
I love affirmations. Affirmations have changed my life for the better in so many ways. Affirmations have helped me to find my inner voice and step forward on my path with a courage and confidence I never knew I had.
And because of that, I always feel like I want to share and spread the power of affirmations to everyone.
But it’s important to remember that there are scenarios in which certain affirmations may not serve you:
When You Feel Deep Sadness
I do NOT believe in saying an affirmation such as, “I am joyful, happy, and upbeat,” when deep inside, your heart is breaking and you actually feel deep, all-consuming sadness or grief.
Affirmations are not meant to cover up or suppress your emotions. This is toxic positivity, and that is not beneficial to you or anyone around you.
Sometimes, you simply need to feel your emotions, even the bad ones. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t affirmations that can help you in this situation. Here are a few affirmations I like to use during tough times:
- Emotional releases are good for me.
- I allow myself to take time for me.
- When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I allow myself space to pause and breathe.
- I am far stronger than I realize.
- I am resilient.
When You Don’t Actually Believe the Affirmation
If you state a positive affirmation, but in the back of your mind, a voice is whispering, Yeah right, this will actually do more harm than good.
First, know that if this happens, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you. We all experience these moments. Just because an affirmation works well for one person doesn’t mean it should automatically work for you. You are a unique individual with your own past history. You can’t compare where you are in your journey to where someone else might be.
Let’s use the example, “I love everything about my body.“
If total body love is a goal, then this might be an empowering affirmation you want to say. But maybe you say it, and somewhere in the back of your mind, another voice appears out of nowhere and says, “Yeah right. You don’t love everything about your body. Look at all your flaws!“
Again, if this happens, there is nothing wrong with you.
In these situations, I like to use what I call the Ladder Method.
The Ladder Method is the practice of starting with an affirmation you do believe wholeheartedly and working your way up to your desired affirmation.
Let’s use the affirmation above: I love everything about my body.
Now, maybe you can’t start there. But here’s an example of the ladder you might climb to get you there:
- I am open to loving my body and seeing it for all of its beauty.
- My body is deserving of love.
- I really love my smile.
- My body shows up for me, each and every day, and it deserves my wholehearted love.
- I am willing to love my body, just as it is.
- My body is truly beautiful.
The key here is to find the affirmation that feels good to you and begin there. You will be surprised at how quickly your mindset begins to transform once you take the first step and just start.
More Tips and Tricks
- Use Your Adjectives: And adverbs, too. Luckily, this isn’t English class, and you’re not getting graded for your word choice, so feel free to use as many magical, inspiring, uplifting,and empowering adjectives as you want. (See what I did there?)
- Practice Mirror Work: Stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eyes, and affirm your worthiness. Tell yourself that you’re beautiful and courageous and resilient and always enough. Tell yourself the words you most need to hear. If this sounds awkward and cringey, I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it actually feels really, really good.
- Don’t Let One Bad Day Stop Your Momentum: Bad days happen, and their existence says absolutely nothing about who you are as a person. You are allowed to have bad days. What matters is that you keep going. Take whatever lessons you can gain from that bad day, then leave it behind. If you need a night to eat chocolate on the couch as you watch The Bachelorette (AKA me last week), then do it. Then, when you wake up tomorrow, open yourself up to reaffirming your worthiness. You got this. I promise.
- Curate Your Social Media Feeds: Follow a few Instagram accounts that are dedicated to providing daily positive affirmations. Add a Daily Affirmations board to your Pinterest page. You don’t have to completely uproot all of your social media accounts. Just add a few motivating accounts to follow and make it a point to read the affirmations as you scroll. Find the people and words that inspire you.
- Borrow Words From Others: And then make them your own. If you’re having trouble coming up with positive words, feel free to search on Google, Pinterest, Instagram, and any other resource you have at your disposal. And once you find some uplifting words that feel right to you, let them become yours. Feel the emotions in your bones. Let them inspire you.
- Smile: Cheesy, I know. But it works.
What are some of your favorite empowering affirmations? Do you have any tips and tricks to making affirmations work for you? Share your experiences in the comments below!
If you’re looking for a daily dose of inspiration, be sure to connect with me on Instagram and Pinterest! I’m posting and pinning positive affirmations daily and am always working to create new daily affirmation resources for you.
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Hi, I’m Zanna! I’m a blogger/freelance writer living in Boise, Idaho. My mission is to help you break through the barriers holding you back from accessing infinite abundance and to inspire you to gather the courage and confidence to follow your dreams.