Combat the negative thoughts and feelings by discovering how and why affirmations and positive reinforcement can help you succeed.
Looking at yourself in the eye in front of the mirror (or looking inward to your mind’s eye) and repeating positive affirmations is not a new concept. It’s a psychological ‘trick’ that has been used by those in the know to boost chances of success and to counteract the negative chatter that so often infiltrates our thoughts.
“Positive self-talk helps people to achieve good results in many areas, including completing simple and complex tasks, improving productivity, winning sporting events and boosting recovery and rehabilitation,” says psychologist Yuliya Richard.
“Individuals who can tell themselves, ‘Yes, it is really uncomfortable, but I can do it. It might be really hard and usually I run away from such situations but this time I will give it a go’, are more likely to take risks and overcome fears.”
Yes, positive affirmations work – when they’re well constructed – in more ways than one, says psychologist Lana Hall.
“Firstly, it means that you’re more likely to act in ways that bring you to your goal, because you’re regularly reminding yourself of its importance and so more likely to keep focused and motivated,” she says.
“Secondly, it helps you to be alert to opportunities that might help you reach your desired state. And lastly, affirmations can start to help you change your sense of self, your identity, to fit with your affirmation. This is a really key part of the change: believing that you are the type of person who can reach your goal. This is why a lot of resolutions end up failing: you say you’ll exercise regularly but you’re the kind of person who’s a bit suspicious of people who love to exercise. Your sense of self is threatened by your goal and so you don’t follow through.
“Tapping into your sense of identity is the scientific reason why affirmations are meant to be said in the present tense, as though you are already there.”
All these elements fit into what is known as the ‘confirmation bias’ – our tendency to look for information that fits with what we already believe.
“Every time you recite an affirmation, you’re confirming your belief, and so the affirmation makes it easier to see evidence that supports the affirmation, and harder to see the evidence against the affirmation,” says Hall.
For more motivational tips and advice read more about how to overcome motivational barriers.