To “affirm” something, by dictionary definition, means that you are declaring it to be true. So, when I affirm that I am fit when I am not, wealthy when I am financially struggling, or loved when I am lonely, how exactly does that work in the guise of living authentically—and who the heck am I kidding?
An affirmation is usually a sentence or phrase that you repeat regularly to make a formal declaration to yourself and the universe of your intention for it to be the truth. While some may say it is akin to “fake it until you make it,” I see it a bit more like holding the vision of what I know can be true.
Here is my experience of how they work. We all have a thing called a Reticular Activating System (RAS) in our brains, which is like a filter that lets in information that we need and filters out information that we don’t. If we didn’t have this system, we would be bombarded with so much information that our senses would overload, and we would go into massive overwhelm. Instead, our brain registers what matters to us based on our goals, needs, interests, and desires.
For example, if you and your friend were driving down the street, and you were hungry and your friend was looking for a date, you would see all the restaurants (and none of the hot guys or gals) while your friend would see all the potential sweethearts (and none of the restaurants). Most of us have had the kind of experience when a friend shows us their new car and it’s a make and model we have never seen before. And, now that it is important to us, we suddenly begin to see that particular make and model everywhere we look. I used to date a guy who drove a cement truck and would have sworn to you prior to dating him that there were no cement trucks on the public roads and highways where I lived. Once I started dating him, I saw cement trucks everywhere! My reticular activating system recognized what was important to me and allowed the information in.
When you say an affirmation over and over again, a couple of things happen. One is that it sends a very clear message to your RAS that this is important to you. When you do that, it gets busy noticing ways to help you achieve your goals. If ideal weight is your emphasis, you will suddenly begin to see every gym and weight loss product. If money is your goal, investment and earning opportunities will move to the forefront of your awareness. In essence, the affirmation can kick your creativity into high gear.
The other way affirmations work is that they create a dynamic tension in our beings. If what I am saying is at a higher vibration than what I perceive the truth to be, the dynamic tension is uncomfortable. For instance, if I am saying, “I am joyfully and healthfully at my ideal weight,” when in actuality I am 10, 20, 30 pounds above my ideal weight, a painful incongruence is felt between what I perceive the truth to be and what I am saying. Since this is uncomfortable, we want to rid ourselves of the tension. There are only two ways to do that: one is to stop saying the affirmation; the other is to raise the bar on reality by making the affirmation and reality match.
So, what makes an effective affirmation? First, determine what kind of transformation you want to bring about in yourself—a goal or intention. Or, determine what quality, attitude, value, or characteristic you want to remind yourself of or develop in yourself. Second, if it fits, add an emotion to the mix or a word that quantifies the statement. For instance, “I am joyfully at my ideal weight of 125.” Or, “I’m happily living in my own home.” I personally like affirmations that strum my heartstrings: “I offer gratitude for every step and every breath.” Third, make it positive versus negative: “I am healthy and fit” rather than “I am no longer fat.”
Some say it takes 21 days of repetition for an affirmation to make its mark on your psyche, so aim to keep your affirmation going for at least a month. In the beginning, you will have to consciously choose to repeat your affirmations. If you repeat them at every opportunity, they will begin to replace the negative mind banter that takes over when we are not monitoring our thoughts. See if you can make the dynamic tension go away by making your words and reality match.
Here are a few positive affirmations to get you started. Please feel free to share your own in the comments below!