Ever heard the phrase “You are what you think”? Throughout the ages, philosophers and psychological theorists have suggested that we are shaped by our thoughts and self-image. That’s where positive affirmations come in.

If you frequently find yourself caught up in negative self-talk — and let’s face it, many of us do that — you risk getting stuck in a seemingly never-ending cycle. Negative thoughts typically translate to negative actions and behaviours, which then lead to even more negative thoughts. And so it goes on.

Positive affirmations are a way to break that cycle. These phrases or statements challenge unhelpful thoughts, combatting subconscious patterns and replacing them with other, better narratives about your life.

That’s why affirmations for positive thinking are important not only for your self-esteem but also for your overall well-being.

The science behind positive affirmations

There’s compelling neuroscientific research into the effects of positive affirmations. Researchers have actually seen changes in the brain when people self-affirm in positive ways.

In one study, for example, MRI scans showed that certain neural pathways are increased when people practise self-affirmation tasks. Specifically, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex — involved in positive valuation and self-related information processing — becomes more active when we consider our personal values.

The benefits of daily affirmations

The following effects have been linked to regular positive affirmations:

Decreased stress and anxiety
Increased academic achievement
Reduced negative thoughts
Increased happiness
Better cardiovascular health

How to create positive affirmations

Positive affirmations require regular practice if you want to make lasting, long-term
changes to the ways that you think and feel. The good news is, they’re really simple to do!

The standard way to create affirmations is to write them down or record them. This can be anywhere you like — on sticky notes, in a book or in a journal. Some people prefer vision boards and personal recordings. The idea is to use a form that allows you to visualise what you intend to manifest or achieve.

Maybe it’s your finding dream job, or perhaps you want to quit a destructive habit. Whatever your goal, you can follow these four basic steps to create affirmations:

  1. Think about what you hope to change or improve about yourself or your life
  2. Make a list of the most important areas of your life you wish to improve
  3. Write or list out a few positive statements for each of those areas. If you’re feeling stuck, look up inspirational quotes that apply to your situation
  4. Make sure you affirm what you want rather than what you don’t want

If it’s easier, you can also start off with very general affirmations, such as:

‘I am worthy’

‘I invite peace into my life’

‘I welcome abundance’

As you become more comfortable and confident with the practice of positive affirmations, you can start tweaking them to be more tailored to specific areas of your life.

Once you have your affirmations, repeat them every day. It’s up to you how you do this – perhaps silently in your head on your way to work, or aloud while looking in the mirror after breakfast. The key thing is that you make this a daily wellness task.

Looking for more ways to boost your well-being? Check out our guide to easy, mood-enhancing breathwork techniques.