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How To Write Affirmations That Actually Work (4 Tips)

If you’ve made your way to this article, you’re probably wondering how to write affirmations that really work.

Thousands of studies on self-affirmation have made the benefits of affirmations quite clear — reduced stress, improved self-image, better problem solving under pressure, and much more.

However if you want to achieve these benefits, it’s important that you follow some key guidelines for writing and practicing affirmations.

In this article, we’ll cover these guidelines and walk through how to structure your affirmations for maximum effectiveness.

Let’s dive in!


How To Write Affirmations That Really Work

As you go through the following tips on how to write affirmations effectively, be sure that you’re actively applying them to your own affirmations.

If you currently practice affirmations, have them out somewhere so that you can analyze and adjust on the go.

If you don’t currently practice affirmations but are looking to start, use the following guidelines to craft your own while you read.

It’s best to apply these guidelines quickly so that the next time you practice affirmations, they’ll have a greater impact on your behavior.


notepad sitting on a desk


#1: Keep Your Affirmations Positive, But Believable

When discussing how to write affirmations that really work, Natalie Dattilo, a clinical psychologist from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, puts things perfectly:

“Affirmations might be ineffective if they don’t align with what you believe about yourself….this is about accurately and authentically encouraging yourself or using words of encouragement or acknowledgement that are consistent with your truth.”

In other words, your affirmations need to be positive, but believable. 

For example, let’s say you’re trying to beat procrastination by using procrastination affirmations. In this case, you shouldn’t say something like, “I never put things off and always do the work that I have to do.”

It’s too incongruent with your current belief system. If you have a bad habit of procrastinating frequently, your brain will recognize the incongruence.

And once your brain recognizes the incongruence, your affirmations will lose much of their value. Instead, it’d be better to say something like this:

“I accept that I’m feeling the urge to procrastinate, but there’s nothing stopping me from getting five minutes of work done right now.”

When you say this, you’re recognizing reality while simultaneously encouraging yourself to take positive action.

When writing your own affirmations, be sure to follow the same principle.


#2: Make Them Relevant To Your Current Goals

Another tip for writing affirmations that really work is to ensure that they are contextually relevant to your current goals.

I’m not saying that generic affirmations aren’t effective. However, they’re not as powerful as short positive affirmations that align with the specific goals you’re pursuing.

For example, if you were to use goal affirmations to help you achieve your goal of becoming more social. You might say something like, “I’m perfectly capable of taking positive action to achieve my goals right now.”

While this statement is positive and believable, it can be made more powerful if you mention the specific thing that you’re chasing.

“At this moment, I’m perfectly capable of walking outside and starting a conversation with two strangers to improve my social skills.”

Just like the first affirmation, this one is positive and believable. But it also has the added benefit of focusing your mind on exactly what you’re after.




#3: Tie Your Positive Affirmations To Specific Actions

The following tip builds upon the last one by emphasizing specificity. The more specific your affirmations are, the more effective they’ll be.

If possible, try to write your affirmations in a way where your next step is clear and actionable. Writing affirmations in this way gives your brain a clear directive for what to do next.

Here are a few examples of what this would look like if you were practicing productivity affirmations:

  • “I’m perfectly capable of opening up a Google doc and writing 100 words.”
  • “I accept that I don’t feel like working right now, but I’m strong enough to open up that unfinished presentation and work for five minutes.”
  • “I don’t need to be motivated or disciplined to spend two minutes crafting that important email.”

Here’s a couple more fitness affirmations that clearly specify a next step:

  • “I’m capable of walking to my closet and throwing on my gym clothes.”
  • “My current level of motivation doesn’t impact my ability to go outside and run for 60 seconds.”

Using affirmations in this way may not be applicable to every situation. Yet when you have the opportunity to repeat affirmations that specify a next step, definitely give it a shot.


#4: Consider Writing Affirmations In The Third Person

When it comes to how to write affirmations that really work, there’s a variety of techniques at your disposal. 

One such technique is to write your affirmations in the third person instead of first person. I know this sounds a little weird, but allow me to share the science behind it from a 2014 article published in the NPR.

Ethan Kross, a psychologist from the University of Michigan, suspected that shifting from the word “I” to one’s own name could have powerful self-regulatory effects.

To test his theory, he asked random study participants to give a speech with only five minutes of preparation. 

One group was told to practice affirmations using the world “I” during the five minute prep period. The other group was told to practice affirmations while referring to themselves by their own name.

  • First Person Affirmations: “I’ve given speeches before, I’m totally confident in my ability.”
  • Third Person Affirmations: “Justin you’ve been in this situation before, you’re perfectly capable of giving a great speech.”

These aren’t the exact affirmations that the participants used, but I just wanted to highlight the difference between the two structures.


man speaking about how to write affirmations


Here’s what Ethan conclude after observing the participants in the study:

People who used “I” had a mental monologue that sounded something like, ” ‘Oh, my god, how am I going to do this? I can’t prepare a speech in five minutes without notes. It takes days for me to prepare a speech!’ On the other hand, the people who practiced third person affirmations sounded more rational, and less emotional — perhaps because they were able to get some distance from themselves.”

What can we take away from these observations?

Well, it’s clear that third person affirmations can be particularly valuable for dealing with negative emotions like fear, stress, anxiety, and discomfort.

So if the focus of your daily affirmations is reducing the impact of negative thoughts on your internal state, then third person affirmations are definitely worth a try.

Because like Ethan said, gaining a bit of distance from yourself and your emotions may improve your ability to self-regulate in difficult moments.


Is Writing Affirmations Effective?

Yes, writing affirmations is effective. As you try to turn the act of repeating positive affirmations into a habit, they aren’t going to be second nature.

Getting to the point where you can repeat affirmations on auto-pilot whenever you need them is going to take conscious practice.

So at first, they need to be written down somewhere. This could be on a little piece of paper in your pocket, on your phone lock screen, or on your wall.

Wherever you decide to keep them, just make sure they’re easily accessible. As you get better at using them correctly at the right times, you won’t need a visual reminder of what to say.


pen and paper


What Are Examples Of Affirmations?

We’ve talked a lot about how to write affirmations effectively thus far.

Let’s build upon the guidelines that we’ve covered through a few examples of positive affirmations that are written in the proper fashion.

Here are some examples of proper affirmations for letting go of the past:

  • “I can’t control the past, but I do have 100% control over my future.
  • “Justin, I know you’re ruminating about the past right now, but it cannot be changed. Focus on what you can do at this moment.”
  • “I can’t erase my past demons, but I can take { insert small positive action here } to overcome them.”

Here are some examples of proper affirmations for happiness:

  • “I’m capable of taking one step towards a better future right now.”
  • “My current level of happiness does not erase my ability to take positive action.”
  • “I accept that happiness is fleeting and will fluctuate throughout the day.”

Finally, here are some examples of positive affirmations for self-care:

  • “I’m committed to prioritizing my self-care one step at a time.”
  • “Right now, I’m going to { insert positive action here } because I value my self-care.”
  • “Justin, you’re perfectly capable of combating these negative thoughts with a small positive action to improve your self-care.”


How To Use Positive Affirmations Effectively

In addition to writing positive affirmations correctly, it’s also important to use them at the right times for maximum benefit.

This should go without saying, but I’ll mention it anyway — you must make positive affirmations a habit for them to be effective.

Saying affirmations once in a while won’t re-shape your beliefs. Your beliefs are a product of what you do consistently, so always be mindful of opportunities where you can shift your self-talk.


man writing affirmations


Additionally, I’ve found affirmations to be most effective when used in the moment as opposed to static times throughout the day.

I bring this up because many people will tell you to practice affirmations at the start of the day or at the end of your day.

This isn’t a bad strategy by any means, I just think that you’ll get far more value from your affirmations by repeating them on an as-needed basis.

Your thoughts and emotions don’t abide by a schedule. There’s no guarantee that you’ll experience fear, stress, or the urge to procrastinate at the start of the day or the end of the day. 

However, there is a guarantee that you’ll experience these emotions at some point during the day. 

So for maximum effectiveness, keep these affirmations in your back-pocket and deploy them in a versatile fashion (whenever these emotions try to sabotage forward progress).


Final Thoughts On How To Write Affirmations

I hope that you found this article on how to write affirmations valuable!

Affirmations are a powerful tool for your personal growth. Leveling up your self-talk is a massive step towards building a stronger mindset and achieving your long-term goals.

So as you get started with affirmations, keep these tips in mind. And if you were already practicing affirmations prior to stopping by, then I hope that you gained new insight into how to bolster their effectiveness.

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