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How to make affirmations work for you

Updated: Aug 31, 2021

They sound like a nice idea, but they don’t actually work do they?!

It’s just a bit like lying to yourself isn’t it?!

They’re nice, but I don’t really believe in them.

Have you heard of something called neuroplasticity? It means essentially that you brain can re-wire and create new connections. When you do something once, you set up a neural connection that becomes stronger each time you repeat it. This can be something positive if it’s a new habit we’re trying to create, but it also means old patterns of thinking, behaviour and choices can often be our ‘default’. A bit like a path that we walk down multiple times, it becomes easier to take that path the more we do it.

Neuroplasticity means that idea that the power of your words to change your reality is in fact true. Your brain actually cannot distinguish between reality and imagination and we receive both these positive and negative messages as we go through life. For example, films provoke real emotions from us when they’re simply made-up stories, and we remember a negative judgement that someone has said about us, sometimes from way back in our childhood.

So why might affirmations appear to not work for some people? Perhaps they’ve not fully bought into or committed to the concept; consciously or unconsciously. Our ‘negative’ messaging patterns might be so strong that they are difficult to overwrite. They might be so deeply patterned we’re even unaware of them. If a message is received and integrated over decades such as ‘I am not worthy’, then it’s going to take more than a couple of positive affirmations to begin to delve into and re-shape that belief. For true transformation, with this as with many other areas of our lives, we need to commit to the process.

One of the joys I see in coaching people, particularly in fitness, is the opportunity for new experience gives us a doorway into this change. They see a barbell and immediately think ‘I can’t pick that up’ - they’re in the space of thinking ‘I am not capable’ – and then they do indeed lift it off the ground. The celebration together, integrating it into our confidence and starting to create that new message is important. That’s magic for me.

My top tips for how to make affirmations work for you:

1. Choose something short, memorable and that you truly believe in.

Maybe, ‘I am a beautiful abundant being that is cherished and worthy of magnificence’ doesn’t feel true to you. Try starting with something more like ‘I am committed to…’, ‘I choose to…’ or ‘I am just as worthy, capable and committed as anyone else of ___________, and I’m going to prove it today with my actions’. They are your affirmations; you don’t need to borrow someone else’s (unless you'd like to! See below) and they don’t need to follow a certain pattern or script. You get to decide what they are. They don’t need to be hippy, airy-fairy, woohoo, touchy feely etc. Choose something that feels right for you.

2. Step into the feeling behind the words

Create space; breathe, and step into the feeling behind your words. They need to not ring hollow for you; your whole being wants to expand with them. You might find visualization a powerful tool to include also. For example, one of mine I have used in the past is ‘I am creating space to be a relaxed woman’ and I slow down, breathe so that I actually feel like a more relaxed woman, whilst also imagining what me as a relaxed woman might do in her day. Connect to that vision of your future self. Notice also where you might feel resistance, and where in your physical body you might feel that resistance; sometimes we might feel it in our chest or belly. Breathe, and practice acceptance and respect for that resistance. After all, your old way of thinking exists for a reason, it’s been built be your brain to try and look after you and get you through something at some point.

3. Say them out loud or write them down

It might sound trivial advice, but it’s not. Saying them in your mind often reduces the amount of commitment you feel to them, rather than saying them out loud or writing them down. It’s worth investing in yourself, so saying them out loud or committing them to paper increases the amount of commitment you make to yourself.

4. Be consistent

Don’t write something off just because it doesn’t make a magic difference the first, or the twentieth time, you do it. A bit like meditation, learning a new skill, studying a new subject, it takes time, patience and consistent effort to see the changes. I know you don’t want to hear that. We all want to the story of the overnight success, the magic pill, the silver bullet, that is just what you are looking for. Maximum gain for minimum effort. But take a deep breath, slow down and see the bigger picture. You know this takes time. Start, and repeat. And repeat. And repeat.

Affirmations perhaps aren’t about change first and foremost. It’s about the power and ability to accept who you are right now and then be more aware and move towards what is possible.

Maybe you came to this post feeling a certain way. Curiosity, sadness, distrust, grief, scepticism, hopeful, confused. Come as you are, take what you need:

  • I am worthy of feeling amazing and confident in my own skin.

  • I accept who I am right now, whilst still growing into a fuller version of me.

  • I am already strong enough. I am already capable enough. I am already worthy enough.

  • I can be soft, vulnerable and quiet - and strong, powerful and confident at the same time. I do not need to choose.

  • I can do and will do hard stuff.

  • I am worthy, even on my worst days.

  • My weight and body body do not dictate my happiness. I choose happiness now.

  • I deeply celebrate my willingness to try again.

  • Choosing to move,rest, fuel and nourish my mind, body and spirit is not selfish.

  • I flow with life's ups and downs, knowing that what I can't control, I can choose to release.

  • I choose to nourish myself and accept that will look very different at different points in my day, week, month and life.

We think change is big and grand but it's not. It's the small, subtle shifts that over time create the biggest impact. The big beautiful life that you dream of is built one day at a time, one moment at a time, one breath at a time.

I hope you found a little truth in this post today that lifted you up!


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