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What Are Affirmations? (And How To Use Them Properly)

What are affirmations? Why are they useful? How can I use them to improve my life and mindset?

If these are some of the questions that you have surrounding positive affirmations, then you’re in the right place.

In this article, we’re going to dive deep into all things affirmations including what they are, how they can help you, and how to leverage them for maximum benefit.

So without further ado, let’s extensively answer the question of: what are affirmations?


What Are Affirmations?

Let’s start with the basics and provide a definition that will guide the rest of this article.

Put simply, positive affirmations are short statements meant to help you challenge negative thoughts and stay emotionally grounded. 

Now although most affirmations fall under this umbrella definition, they can be structured in a variety of ways based on how you want to use them.

Value focused affirmations are specific phrases that remind you of the core values that guide your life.

Action focused affirmations are short statements designed to motivate you to engage in a specific behavior.

Goal affirmations are statements that are meant to motivate you to pursue your most important goals. Mindfulness affirmations can help you stay present and positive when negative thoughts are sabotaging your internal dialogue.

We could talk forever about the different types of affirmations, but the point is that affirmations are a form of self-encouragement. 

You’re not always going to get support from your brain when it comes to thinking positive thoughts. In fact, most of the time you’ll feel the natural pull towards negativity.

Affirmations can interrupt the process of internal self-sabotage by providing some resistance to the thoughts that keep you stuck, unhappy, and afraid.


affirmation on a wall


3 Crucial Benefits Of Affirmations

What are affirmations? Check.

Now let’s get practical and talk about the proven benefits of affirmations so that you understand how they can positively impact your life.

Benefit #1: Affirmations Reduce Stress

Research shows that positive affirmations can buffer the psychological stress response. 

When we consciously focus on positive sources of self-worth, we inhibit the body’s natural stress response by activating our reward pathways. This makes it easier to stay level-headed when you’re dealing with internal stressors.

Benefit #2: Affirmations Promote Positive Behavior Change

Many people think that affirmations are just an idealistic self-help technique that doesn’t result in true behavior change, but research like this tells a different story.

In the study, participants who wanted to build healthier lifestyle habits were split into two groups:

  • Group one was asked to track how many servings of fruits and vegetables they ate for one week.
  • Group two was asked to track how many servings of fruits and vegetables they ate for one week while using self-affirmation statements to reaffirm their core values.

Unsurprisingly, group two ate an average of 5.5 montmore servings of fruits and vegetables per week than group one.

Several studies similar to this one have shown that positive affirmations can reduce smoking, improve exercise habits, and much more.

Benefit #3: Self-Affirmations Decreases Rumination

One of the most unhealthy thought patterns that we all fall victim to is rumination — the act of thinking about the same negative experiences over and over again.

It’s one of the worst things that we can do for our mental health, but our brain is incredibly persistent when it comes to maintaining this habit.


man thinking at work


In this study, researchers gave participants failure feedback based on a test they took, which obviously led to increased rumination in all participants.

However, subsequent trials showed that practicing self-affirmations after receiving feedback significantly reduced ruminative thinking and led to improvements in overall mood.

These findings indicate that positive affirmations can help you turn the tide when your brain is bombarding you with negativity.


Examples Of Affirmations

An article that’s supposed to answer the question of “what are affirmations?” wouldn’t be complete without providing a few examples.

As mentioned earlier, affirmations are short statements designed to encourage positive thinking. And while this is the general definition of positive affirmations, there’s a variety of ways that you can write affirmations that work.

One of the most common ways to practice affirmations is by starting with the words “I am” and then re-affirming something positive about yourself:

  • I am in complete control of my life.
  • I am capable of self-discipline right now.
  • I am not my past mistakes; I am the person who’s learned from them.
  • I am working towards my goals every single day.

Affirmations can also be used to push certain feelings away. You may start them with “I refuse” if you’re trying to ignore and reframe negative thoughts:

  • I refuse to give into my desire for instant gratification.
  • I refuse to let my negative thoughts define who I am.
  • I refuse to believe that I’m not good enough
  • I refuse to believe that I can’t achieve my goals.

These kinds of affirmations are incredibly useful when you’re dealing with a swirl of negative emotions and need to regulate your emotional state.

Lastly, there’s certainly value in using affirmations to encourage specific traits. For example, if you lack confidence you can practice confidence affirmations to promote positive action that will improve your self-esteem:

  • Confidence is a skill that I’m capable of developing
  • I have everything I need within me to improve my confidence
  • I can do anything that I set my mind to

You can also integrate some health affirmations into your day if you’re looking to make healthier choices:

  • I’m capable of getting into the best shape of my life.
  • I refuse to let short-term pleasure continue to sabotage my weight.
  • I accept that I change my past, but I can affect my future.

Maybe you’ve been feeling pretty ungrateful these past few months and want to use gratitude affirmations like these to show more appreciation for what you have.

  • I’m grateful for everything that I’ve been given in life.
  • It’s possible for me to be happy with what I have while wanting more.
  • I’m thankful for friends and family that surround me with positive energy.


positive affirmation


For the most part, it’s hard to get affirmations wrong. As long as you’re repeating statements that encourage positive thinking, you’re on the right track.

With that being said, there’s one key mistake that you must avoid in order to access the benefits that we discussed earlier.

Let’s talk about that mistake now and how you can steer clear of it.


Why Affirmations Don’t Work

We’ve talked a lot about what affirmations are and why they work up to this point.

However, if you practice affirmations the wrong way they’ll actually do more harm than good.

So what’s the one mistake you can’t make? Well, like most things in life it’s stunningly simple and easy to overlook.

The Golden Rule Of Affirmations: In order for affirmations to work, you must actually believe what you’re saying

If you search the internet for blog posts about affirmations you’ll often see phrases like:

  • I am filled to the brim with confidence
  • I am happy with my life right now.
  • I am a master of getting things done
  • I am rich in abundance and prosperity

I’m guessing you can already see the problem here. What if you have zero self-esteem? What if you’re not happy with your life right now? What if you’re lazy and suck at getting things done? What if you’re broke? 

Your brain isn’t stupid. You can’t just trick it into believing things that aren’t true, yet that’s what many people who practice affirmations try to do. 

So what should you do instead? 

Keep your affirmations positive and believable. Rather than trying to affirm a false reality that doesn’t exist, you should instead focus your affirmations on things you can actually control.

One of the things that you can always control is your effort. At any given moment, you have the power to decide what to do with your life (that’s actually an affirmation that I use quite frequently).

In the next section of this article, we’ll discuss the framework for practicing affirmations the right way.


How To Leverage Positive Affirmations

So far we’ve covered the topic of what are affirmations pretty extensively. Now let’s bring everything together and talk about the right way to structure and implement positive affirmations.

The first thing you need to do before implementing affirmations is to decide what purpose they are going to serve.

Do you want to use affirmations for letting go to help you let go of the past? Do you want to use business affirmations to manifest success in your business endeavors?

Think about the area of your life that needs the most work, and then use that as the guideline for developing your affirmations. 


lightbulb and notebook on desk


Next, you want to structure in a way that follows the golden rule of affirmations — keep them positive but believable.

For example, let’s say that you really want to expand your social circle and develop deeper personal relationships. Here’s what some affirmations for friendship might look like:

  • I’m capable of taking control of my social life.
  • I can do one small thing to expand my social circle right now.
  • Every single time that I move out of my social comfort zone, I move closer to the life that I desire.
  • The social life that I want won’t be handed to me, I have to go out into the world and earn it.

Notice a common theme in these statements? They’re focused on effort as opposed to competence.

They’re not misleading or overly optimistic, and they’re positive and believable enough for your brain to accept them as truth.

Let’s look at another set of properly structured affirmations to overcome fear.

  • I am capable of overcoming my fears.
  • Every time that I face my fears, they start to die a slow death.
  • I can feel the fear and do it anyway.
  • My fears are not here to keep me stuck, they’re here to lead me forward.

Hopefully these examples of affirmations give you an idea as to how to structure your own.

Have fun with this! Take some time to customize your own affirmations specific to you and your goals.

As long as you actually believe the words you’re saying, then positive affirmations will have a real impact on your motivation and behavioral outcomes.

Final Thoughts On What Are Affirmations

Positive affirmations are a powerful tool that you can leverage for growth. 

Study after study has shown that they can reduce stress, decrease rumination, promote behavior change, and regulate your emotional state.

However all of these benefits are based around one assumption, which is that you’re using them properly.

My goal in writing this post was never to answer the surface level question of what are affirmations. It was to lay out the right way to practice them so you actually experience the variety of benefits they provide.

I hope that everything we covered satisfied this question for you, and more importantly that you get out there and start taking action.

Here’s to your success!

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