According to cognitive neuroscientists, 95 percent of brain activity is beyond our conscious awareness. That means our daily experiences are largely affected by unconscious beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. So, if we wish to improve our lives, we need to shift these unconscious experiences. One way to do that is by using positive statements about ourselves or our lives—otherwise known as positive affirmations.
How to Get Started With Positive Affirmations
First, we must pay attention to notice which current patterns of behavior are working against our best interests. We might also want to know what aspects of our well-being we most struggle with so we can create affirmations that are likely to have the biggest impact for us (take this well-being quiz to learn more).
Second, we must feel motivated enough to do something. Once we have accepted that the subconscious is not always on track with what we want for ourselves, we can work on “fixing” the problem through the repeated use of positive affirmations.
But wait! Randomly repeating just any ol' positive affirmation is not enough to result in significant change. If we want our positive affirmations to be successful, we need to learn how to construct these statements in the right ways. This way, our positive affirmations are more likely to lead to more positive actions, emotions, and experiences. So keep these tips in mind when constructing positive affirmations.
1. Positive affirmations should be spoken out loud and repeated
Speaking reinforces our learning processes and increases the likelihood of our subconscious actually hearing our request. Adding other sense perceptions helps even further. For instance, lighting a candle or a stick of incense each time you repeat your affirmations is a way of signaling your subconscious to pay attention. Ringing a bell before speaking your positive affirmation aloud is another way to further awaken more senses. By creating a ritual-type of situation that is repeated consistently and linked with the affirmations, you are signaling to the subconscious that you want its attention.
2. Always use the present tense when saying positive affirmations
The subconscious thinks simplistically; it lives in the now. Concepts like “soon” or “later” are hard for your subconscious to understand. So are abstract adjectives such as “better." Keep your positive affirmations simple, and construct your sentences in the present tense. For example, “I am healthy, wealthy and wise,” and not “I am becoming healthier as I age” or “I will be wealthy by the time I’m 50” or “I am learning to be wise through my mistakes.” Lofty ideas may wow the conscious mind, but the subconscious is more easily influenced by statements about the present.
3. Avoid negatives in positive affirmations
The subconscious can get mixed up with negatives and what you really mean by them. For example, if your positive affirmation states, “I am not sick anymore," your subconscious may focus on the idea of being sick because that is the subject of your affirmation. The same goes for “I am not poor,” where the subconscious thinks the message is “being poor” so it continues to provide what it thinks you want, which is more poverty. So choose your message carefully to ensure your communication with your subconscious leads to positive change and discontinuation of the negative thinking patterns.
4. Create positive affirmations that focus on the solution and not the problem
A statement such as “I am done with toxic relationships” might backfire because it focuses on bad relationships, not good ones. Instead, your affirmation should state the most positive outcome, such as “I am building healthy and balanced relationships that are a win-win for both of us,” or “My relationships are happy because we share the pleasures and responsibilities of our life together.” The goal of your positive affirmations is to state your desires as valid and real, without focusing on your dissatisfactions about how things are going at present. State the improvements you want to see in your life, not the bad things you want to improve.
5. Craft positive affirmations that are specific, simple, and direct
Your subconscious knows how to achieve what you want, but it needs direction. It does not need to be told explicitly how to achieve those ends, but it does need guidance. “I am healthy and happy” is a simple positive affirmation. If you are looking for a new, well-paying job, be as specific as you can be. For example, you could say “I make $100,000 a year working for a company I love in Austin, TX. I am having fun being creative while making others happy. I am respected for what I have to offer and have plenty of time to spend with friends and loved ones when my job is done.” Once you have a positive affirmation that you feel good about, try it out and see how it makes you feel. If it doesn’t make you feel better, rework your affirmation until it does.
6. Fill your positive affirmations with passion
Positive affirmations that are full of emotion have a greater impact. Feeling the change you want to experience helps your positive affirmations work. Say the following: “I am happy.” Now stop and think about a time when you were really happy and get in touch with that feeling. Draw it into yourself and let it fill your heart with joy. Now say “I am happy” and really exude what happiness feels like as you make your statement. Do you see how much stronger the impact is when you imbue your words with feeling? If you fill your affirmations with positive emotions, they can be much more effective in bringing about what you desire. Positive emotions are key to successful affirmations!
7. Add visualizations to your positive affirmations
Use your conscious mind to design a scene that supports your positive affirmations. Since a picture speaks a thousand words, visualization is a great way to get your message across to your subconscious mind about what you want. If you’re house-hunting, visualize the house of your dreams, whether a cozy cabin in the woods or a mansion on the hill, and make it real in your mind adding lots of details. The clearer you can see what you are dreaming of manifesting, the better your subconscious will see it too.
8. Ground your positive affirmations in your body
Use facial expressions, gung-ho gestures, thumbs-up, affirmative sounds like “Ho!” or “Yes I can!”, clap your hands, or jump forward. Another way to ground your message into your body is to take a brisk walk while saying your affirmations over and over again. The mental-somatic connections in the brain are thus reinforced and provide greater support to your positive affirmation.
9. Start your positive affirmation practice
Set aside 10-15 minutes a day to repeat your positive affirmations. Add sounds and smells, for example by lighting a candle or ringing a bell or infusing the space with incense. Speak with heartfelt emotions and create visualizations to activate different regions of your brain.
10. Take action on your positive affirmations
Ground your positive affirmations in reality by taking some action. If it’s a job you are looking for, send out some resumes. If you want to be exposed to less plastic toxins, buy some glass dishes to replace your plastic ones. If you want to be more fit, say your affirmations as you walk or drive to the gym for a work-out. Actions speak even louder than words.
11. Stick to your positive affirmations
It takes time to reprogram your brain. Remind yourself to do your positive affirmations by putting up sticky note reminders around your home, or paint a rock, a twig, or a pinecone as a trigger-reminder, and every time you see it or just think of your object, state out loud your positive affirmation. Alternatively, you could send yourself a letter, or place a reminder in your digital calendar to do your positive affirmation. Most importantly, be persistent. If you want to carve a new groove in your subconscious, keep at it.