How to Use Affirmations to Change the Way You Think
Do you ever find yourself stuck in a negative thought spiral? It can be tough to break out of that mindset, especially if it's been going on for a while. One way to start changing the way you think is by using affirmations. Affirmations are statements that you either repeat to yourself or write. They help to reprogram your brain and change the way you think about yourself and your life. In this blog post, we will discuss how to use affirmations to change the way you think!
Why Affirmations Don't Work
Before we begin I want to say that affirmations are a great tool if used correctly. However, most law of attraction methods are flawed in the way that they recommend using affirmations.
Affirmations only work when you your subconscious believes the affirmation. If your affirmation is not aligned with your unconscious or subconscious mind there is no way that you can make the affirmation work for yourself. When you read or say an affirmation that you do not believe your body responds based off the memories that are stored in your body.
No matter how much your conscious mind wants to believe what you are saying if your body is giving the signal to your subconscious mind then your subconscious will not believe it and will not take action.
All thoughts have two components: emotions and feelings. Emotions are the physical state of your body. Feelings are how we interpret the physical state (emotions). When your emotional state does not match your feelings, the brain knows that there is a disconnect. This disconnect is perceived as uncertainty and your brain is designed to reduce uncertainty.
That means you need to align your emotions and your feelings in order for affirmations to work. Affirmations work when paired with embodiment and neuro reprogramming
5 Steps to Optimize Affirmations
1. Pick affirmations that you resonate with.
If an affirmation sounds like bullshit or wishful thinking, it doesn't do you any good to write or say it. Pick affirmations that are aligned with your values. Don't worry about whether it is stated positively or not. Your mind is smart enough to understand what you are intending.
For example, it is perfectly fine to say "I will not let my clients take advantage of my time" instead of "I will create healthy boundaries with my clients." If you are not very good at creating and upholding boundaries, then repeating an affirmation about boundaries isn't going to work. On the other hand, your mind can get behind the notion of not letting your clients take advantage of your time because you know how valuable your time is.
2. Identify your emotions and feelings about the affirmation.
It's time to do a little embodiment practice. Take a breath (whatever kind is your favorite) then say the affirmation aloud. Notice how your body feels. Do you feel any tightness anywhere or are you relaxed?
If you feel tightness or anxiousness, you can either do some journaling on why you feel this way (which you should do at some point of time) or you should pick another affirmation. Maybe you need to rewrite it so it resonates more deeply with you.
When you breath and notice a relaxed or energized (confident, secure) sensation then you know that the affirmation is aligned with your emotional state attached to the meaning of that affirmation.
3. Think about what thoughts you would need to think if you really believed the affirmation.
The whole point of using affirmations to change the way you think is to create new thoughts. If you don't take the time to think differently, you're going to think the same as you always have. You will take the same actions and fall into the same habits that you are trying to break.
Take a few moments to think about what kinds of thoughts someone would think if they believed the affirmation. For example, let's say your affirmation is "I attract clients easily." You might need to think thoughts such as "There are plenty of people ready to learn how I help them change their lives," or "people are talking about how amazing my program is."
4. What thoughts would you have to give up if you believed the affirmation?
Spend a few moments to identify which thoughts you often have that go against the affirmation. This is an important step because once you become aware of the thoughts that you think that are not aligned with the life you are trying to create, then you will notice them when you have those thoughts.
When you do think one of these thoughts (and you will because it takes time to change your thought patterns) you'll be able to replace it with the new thoughts. You might not catch yourself in the moment, but whenever you do notice the thoughts you want to give up, acknowledge the thought, be kind to yourself, then think about your new thoughts.
5. Think about what actions you would take if you truly believed the affirmation.
Now that you know what thoughts you want to have and which thoughts you don't want to have, it's time to think about the sort of actions that someone would take that believed the affirmation.
How would things be different? What kinds of boundaries are needed? What would you say "yes" to? What would you say "no" to?
Purposeful Affirmations are powerful tools that can change the way you think. They work because they force you to confront your beliefs and root out any unhealthy thoughts or behaviors. The best part is, affirmation statements don't have to be positive in nature- it's what you feel about them personally that matters most. By using affirmations to create new thought patterns, eventually those old negative thoughts will disappear all together!
FREE EDITABLE JOURNAL PAGE
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You don't see the whole picture. You only see what your brain thinks you should be seeing. Our brains limit how much information we can take in at any given time, helping us focus on what's most important. It's helpful when there are too many distractions around us but it also means that sometimes we might not notice things that could help us achieve success or make better decisions because they're outside of our comfort zone.
What is the reticular activating system?
The reticular activating system (RAS) is a network in our brains whose primary purpose is to help us control what information we can take in at any given time. This system helps us transition from sleep to wakefulness, helps us focus, manages our stress response cycle, and shapes how we perceive the world.
At any moment in time, we are bombarded with information. What's the temperature? How much noise is there and where is the noise coming from? What are the smells? What is visually happening? What are the intentions of the people involved? Am I safe? Have I experienced this before? Do I know what to do in this situation?
As you can see, that's a lot of information to take in every second of the day. So the RAS filters the information so we don't get overloaded and stop functioning. But how does it know what to filter? The easiest, most energy efficient way for the brain to is to only allow information to come through that is similar to something you've already experienced.
By the time you reach 1 year old, you have already had 15,768,000 seconds of information that your brain has had to process. Yes, that includes sleeping but our brains don't turn off while we sleep, instead our brains are still perceiving information. That's a lot of information to catalog so to make something a priority, the RAS keeps looking for data that has emotional importance. This is called confirmation bias.
How does confirmation bias work?
The intensity of how we feel about something triggers the brain to catalog information as important. Then the brain compares it to previous experiences and what we felt in those moments. Together the emotional intensity and the feelings indicate whether something should be acted upon. This is basically how stress responses are activated.
Think of something in the political realm that you feel very passionately about. As soon as someone starts talking about it, if your perception of their words do not match the intensity and meaning that you have assigned, you will not be able to hear anything that the person says. This is the RAS and confirmation bias at work.
Confirmation bias is the brain's predisposition for us to hear, read, or see information that is closely related to the experiences we have had before. As soon as you take in information that contradicts your beliefs, your RAS will activate the stress response and instead of having energy directed to the cortex where logical thinking can occur, energy will be directed to the flight-or-fight responses.
Thanksgiving dinner arguments are basically inevitable thanks to the RAS and confirmation bias.
You can train your reticular activating system
Your initial reactions to information are based on your past experiences but they don't have to define your future. You have taken the first step in creating a new future by understanding how confirmation bias and the RAS work. Now it's time to use it to your advantage.
There are numerous ways to train your RAS not to send you into a stress response but these are my 3 favorite:
1. Purposeful affirmations
I'm actually not a fan of blanket affirmations because they don't work (thanks to the RAS). If you don't believe what the affirmation is or it doesn't match your previous experiences, confirmation bias will come into play and you won't change your beliefs.
However, if you take time to think about what an affirmation really means to you then you are using the executive functioning parts of your brain so you can actually start creating new thought patterns. Once you start having those new thoughts, then the RAS will look for information that supports those new thoughts.
2. End of day recap
There are several benefits of recapping events at the end of the day. Firstly, it allows you to reflect on what happened and how you felt during the event. This can help you learn from your experiences and make better decisions in the future. Secondly, recapping helps to solidify your feelings and emotions of the event but from a logical, conscious mind instead of a reactive, subconscious mind. Your initial reactions and feelings may not be aligned with the life you are trying to create. By reviewing how you reacted, you can train your reticular activating system to react differently the next time a similar event occurs.
3. Self Partnership
Self partnership is the term I use that represents taking ownership of your reactions, taking responsibility for your needs, and taking action towards getting the support you need. Whether you give yourself the support you need or you ask others, we all need to feel supported. I talk about this in my book "Get Unstuckable" and I guide members through the process of self partnership in our weekly Unstuckable Method membership meetings.
If you're looking for a supportive community that will help you stay accountable to your dreams, then consider joining the Unstuckable membership program.
When you need help, it can be tough to ask for it. You may feel like you're being a burden or if you ask for help it means you're not strong enough to do it on your own. Asking for help, however, is actually a sign of strength. It takes courage and vulnerability to reach out to others and ask for support.
If you feel like you always need to figure things out and do things on your own, it might actually be your trauma talking. When we are young we are praised when we play by ourselves and rewarded when we do things without asking for help because our caregivers want us to grow up and be self-sufficient adults. Kids are commended for being independent and self-reliant so to make their caregivers happy, they continue their independent actions and learn that it is best not to ask for help if they want their caregivers to be proud of them. Too often, this translates into needing to do EVERYTHING on our own and rarely asking for help.
We humans are social animals. We thrive in community. From the moment we are born, we need connection with others in order to feel safe and secure. We need to be held, to feel the touch of another human being. We need to hear our caregivers' voices and know that we are loved.
When you are deeply connected to your independence, it makes it difficult to reach out for help even though getting support from others may be exactly what you need.
We need connection. We need community. We need to feel seen and heard and understood. We need to know that we are not alone in our struggles and that we aren't the only ones feeling the same way.
When we ask for help, we are taking care of ourselves and others. We are acknowledging that we can't do everything on our own and that we need the support of others. We are also sending a message to those around us that it is safe to ask for help. When we see others asking for help, it makes it easier for us to do the same.
I personally am a big fan of having people in your life that you can stay accountable to. As a business owner (and especially as a business owner with ADHD), I need a group of supportive business owners that understand my struggles. Yes, I'm really good at organizing and coming up with plans and strategies, but implementing everything? Well, that's where I used to struggle the most.
That is where the Unstuckable Method and the Unstuckable membership comes into play.
The Unstuckable Method that I outline in my book "Get Unstuckable" is exactly what is needed to help me get the focus and motivation to keep showing up week after week in my business. It is based on neuroscience and helps you make progress in your goals and in creating a life you love.
The Unstuckable membership is an accountability group with people who understand your struggles and can help you stay on track. Showing up weekly not only provides the support but it also helps give motivation to reach your goals. If you have a hard time staying motivated or if you struggle with self-discipline then consider joining the Unstuckable membership.