“I wrote weekly affirmations for one year and here’s how it impacted my mental health”

Posted by for Wellbeing

Negative thoughts about yourself and your body can be hard to ignore. Here, we explain how you can fight them off with powerful affirmations. 

In recent months, I’ve noticed a significant shift across media and society in attempting to protect our mental wellbeing – and thank goodness for that considering the year we’ve just had. Unlike the stigma that was once attached to mental health in the past, exercise for our minds has become as mainstream and critical as physical exercise. Now, value is placed on building mental strength as much as it is for physical strength. And when either of those takes a hit, I see the ways in which it impacts my wellbeing – which is how I learned to exercise my mind and emotions by practicing affirmations. 

Two years ago, I was working a job that made me incredibly unhappy. I’d just moved to New York City from Houston, and my goal was to get work quickly – so I settled on my first offer. Six months later, I found myself being torn between gratitude for having a job in a competitive industry and simply wanting to walk away from an unfulfilling situation.

My confidence took a hit daily and it was getting harder to stay positive. So one day, I wrote myself a message on a sticky note. It read, “Hey Chels! You’ve got this girl! Knock ‘em out!”. As I sat there one evening, feeling really down about my life, I realised that the little note of encouragement sticking to my laptop always made me feel better – so I googled ‘affirmations to start your day right.’ 

From that day onwards, I wrote myself a new set of affirmations each week for an entire year to address whatever it was that I was experiencing at the time. Little did I know, those affirmations would lead to me writing my first book Speak Those Things: 52 Affirmations To Build Life You Love

At the beginning of each day, I would repeat these daily mantras to myself out loud to put myself in an optimistic and positive state of mind – opening myself up to having a good day. And when I found myself struggling throughout the day, I would refer back to the affirmation and repeat it silently to myself. Yes, I know that talking to yourself in the mirror might seem as mystical as reiki and crystal healing. But before you roll your eyes at me, let’s hear from the experts. 

Christmas depression: when everyone around you is in good spirits, it can be particularly isolating to feel low or depressed.
Affirmations: "What I love about affirmations is that they aren’t intended to get us to disregard the reality of our circumstances or what it is that we’re feeling"

One of my favourite explanations of how affirmations impact our mental and emotional wellbeing comes from Ronald Alexander in an article on Psychology Today. He writes: “An affirmation can work because it has the ability to program your mind into believing the stated concept. This is because the mind doesn’t know the difference between what is real or what is fantasy. There are both positive and negative types of affirmations. If an unwholesome belief is deeply rooted in our unconscious mind, then it has the ability to override a positive affirmation, even if we aren’t aware of it. This is why, for many people, affirmations don’t seem to work: Their afflicted thought patterns are so strong that they knock out the effect of the positive statement.”

One of the key psychological theories behind positive affirmations is self-affirmation theory. The psychologist Catherine Moore wrote in a post for Positive Psychology that “there are empirical studies based on the idea that we can maintain our sense of self-integrity by telling ourselves (or affirming) what we believe in positive ways.”

What I love about affirmations is that they aren’t intended for us to disregard the reality of our circumstances or what it is that we’re feeling. Instead, they benefit us by conditioning our response to say, ‘I recognise what I am feeling, so I am going to be proactive about speaking life into these circumstances.’ 

I’ve gotten into a routine where I recite my affirmations three times a day. First thing in the morning, at midday to help myself reset, and at night before I go to bed. When writing affirmations, I focus on whatever it is I’m dealing with or what I want to affirm. Then, writing an affirmation that begins with “I am” and following up with proactive terms. For example, instead of, “I will do my best to be kind to my body” I say, “I am kind to my body.” It’s important to take those negative thoughts and use them in your favour by turning them into something positive.

Louise Hay, author of Heal Your Body, is considered one of the most sought after voices for affirmations. “You have the power to heal your life, and you need to know that,” reads one of her most famous quotes. “We think so often that we are helpless, but we’re not. We always have the power of our minds… Claim and consciously use your power. Remember, you have been criticising yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens. Every thought we think is creating our future.”

And remember, in order to achieve overall wellness – in mind, body, and soul – it is imperative that we focus on developing more than just our physical bodies. To work on one part of our being without the other is counterproductive and a big part of the reason why I am so passionate about affirmations and decided to write a book about it. Speaking to ourselves in a positive manner has the ability to build us up, help us see the best in ourselves, and serve as an effective buffer when we are not able to strengthen our bodies physically.

So, while the thought of giving yourself a pep-talk might seem too spiritual or hippie-dippy for many of us, we shouldn’t dismiss the fact that affirmations have a beneficial impact on our head space. And couldn’t we all use as much help as we can get during such uncertain times?

Below I’ve put together a list of affirmations that I felt would be encouraging whenever you need some self-love.

10 affirmations for when you’re having negative thoughts about yourself: 

  1. There’s no place in my heart or mind for negative self-talk.
  2. I am thankful for this body of mine.
  3. I embrace my journey and show myself grace on a daily basis.
  4. I am blessed to be able to exercise and strengthen my body.
  5. Comparison is the thief of joy. I do not compare myself to others.
  6. I surround myself with people who love me, support me, and believe in me.
  7. I celebrate my whole being.
  8. I love what I see when I look in the mirror.
  9. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am worthy.
  10. From this moment forward, I actively dismiss any forms of negativity, doubt, or insecurity. I am committed to seeing the highest possible version of myself in my heart and mind. 

If you’d like more affirmations or are interested in learning more about their impact on the mind and body, you can read my book Speak Those Things, 52 Affirmations To Build A Life You Love (by Chelsea Coffee)

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