The self-help market is full of the power of affirmations, but do they really work? Is it possible that saying something positive to yourself every day can really change the way you think and the resulting actions you take?
As a coach it is increasingly clear to me that affirmations can work in the right context but almost invariably they don’t work on their own and they are not the cause of the change of mind. Nearly always work needs to be done before affirmations can be used.
It is not possible to kid the subconscious brain by telling it lies! What do I mean by this? Well, if you continually repeat to yourself “I am a money magnet” but you don’t believe it then the affirmation will do nothing and in fact it may serve to undermine your confidence in yourself because you are consciously lying to yourself. There is evidence to support this viewpoint:
Dr Joanne Wood at the University of Waterloo, Ontario and her colleagues at the University of New Brunswick recently published an article in the Journal of Psychological Science which concluded that “repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, such as individuals with high self-esteem, but backfire for the very people who need them the most.
The researchers asked people with low and high self-esteem to use the affirmation “I am a lovable person”. When they measured the participants’ feelings about themselves they found that the low self-esteem group felt worse afterwards and the high self-esteem group felt slightly better.Psychology Today - May 2013
This makes perfect sense when you think in terms of congruence…. After all for those with low self-esteem the affirmation in all probability sets up a series of contradictory self-talk and confusion.
Other evidence is also suggesting that in order to move forward we have to acknowledge that negative thoughts occur and recur throughout life. Instead of challenging them and fighting against them we would do much better to accept them and commit to our overriding values in life. Dr Stephen Hayes advocates observance of negative thoughts in a mindful way – accept that you have negative thoughts, then focus on what you want and engage in positive behaviours.
Crucially a change of mind requires a change of beliefs, a change in the stories you are telling yourself and a change in the personal evidence you’re feeding yourself before affirmations might make a difference. In other words create some evidence with your actions before you start affirming something as a fact to yourself…… then, but only then, affirmations might make a difference.</font>
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