Affirmations are seeds planted in our minds that have the ability to grow. They’re positive reminders or statements that can be used to encourage and motivate ourselves or others. Each time we have a thought, our brain changes because “neurons that fire together, wire together,” and that’s why the practice of affirmations, such as regular journaling and habitual moments of reflection, can be so impactful. Every thought we have has the power to create and strengthen pathways in our brain that can form the kind of life we want to live. And the more we do it, the more ingrained the practice becomes, and the easier it is for our brains to process positivity, boundaries and gratitude — creating a virtuous cycle.
Affirmations are tried and tested methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains. Much like physical activity, they increase our feel-good hormones and push our brains to create new clusters of “positive thought” neurons.1 With enough repetition, our messages can become automatic, like our beliefs. For example, if we ruminate on negative thoughts, the more rooted those negative beliefs become. And that’s exactly why the opposite is also true – positive thoughts and experiences can strengthen our brain’s ability to fire up neurons that manifest happiness and wellbeing.2
So, if we shift the way we talk to ourselves by focusing on the positive – things that lift us up rather than things that drag us down – we can spark something known as “self-directed neuroplasticity.” We, as humans, are wired to focus on the negative as a way of survival. We’re taught to solve problems and fix things rather than pause to acknowledge positive moments throughout the day. On the one hand, this attention can help us stay on top of things or get us out of a bind, but if the focus on these issues becomes unbalanced, it can contribute to undesirable emotions and overpower good experiences. And one of the only ways to change this pattern is by consciously creating a daily practice around positivity.
The practice of writing down something optimistic and uplifting is a powerful way to improve our mindset on a daily basis, and research shows that these rituals can actually increase our feelings of self-worth, health and relationships.3 Whether we start the morning with a handful of daily affirmations or make a point to write down one thing we’re grateful for every day, regular and dedicated attention to what makes us feel good can help us retain positive moments more easily and ultimately, change the way we feel about our lives.
Real change begins when we start to appreciate these moments as they occur. If we can remember to stay present, pay attention to our surroundings and take 30 seconds to absorb and create mental snapshots of sound experiences, we can actually start to imprint these events in our mind. Sensory modalities are key because they strengthen the positive neural pathways in our brain. And while 30 seconds may seem like a short amount of time, it’s enough to help our brains weed out the unnecessary focus on what doesn’t serve us.
If our brains express positive emotions, we become more resilient. We bounce back quicker from challenges and disappointments. The more we focus on what’s good, the more we can release stress hormones, ultimately lessening the destructive physiological effects of tension and anxiety. The more compassion we have for ourselves, the more grace we give ourselves for failing and trying again.
What do daily affirmations look like?
It’s simple. Grab a journal, and once a day, write down an expression of gratitude, a positive quality you embody or something beneficial you want to see happen your life. Write these manifestations down as if they’ve already taken place. Try looking in the mirror and repeating the words out loud. Feel them. Understand the sensations that arise. And if this practice seems strange, know that’s normal! We’re shifting our beliefs! Here are a few affirmations that we love to repeat:
So, get those neurons firing! We promise you won’t regret it.
“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” ― Mahatma Gandhi