Think positive affirmations are just a bunch of fluff? Well, many researchers would tell you to think again…and probably more positively. As it turns out, the perks of practicing a good attitude go far beyond just having a colorfully decorated mirror with sticky notes. These mini-mantras (which are kind of like internal hashtags) can help you with everything from developing a better mood and experiencing enhanced performance to living a healthier life.
Much of this success is a direct result of shifting focus. Positive thoughts and negative thoughts cannot exist at the same time, which means if you're practicing affirmations, a problematic mindset has no room to exist. Success coach Tony Robbins is famously quoted as saying, “you can't be grateful and angry simultaneously,” and the same immediate effect applies to any kind of beneficial self-talk. But positive affirmations also have a more lasting significant result, as they allow you to identify opportunities to succeed quicker and more abundantly.
One of my most life-changing exercises in re-tooling my brain was during a project in college for a Fine Arts class. The professor tasked us with a simple assignment that was due the next day: take 100 photos of various grids within our immediate neighborhood. As I drove home, I was completely bewildered…100 grids? Where on earth would I find 100 grids? I could think of just one: a chain-link fence that was a couple doors down from my home at the time. I started to stress.
But, as I began to walk around my block, camera in hand, a not-so-mysterious thing happened: I started to notice grids! I had never seen these grids before in that context, but it wasn't long before I realized the sidewalk was a grid; the french doors were a grid; the wall tiles were a grid; the screen was a grid; the car grill was a grid. Grids were everywhere! As I ventured on, seeing the grids became easier and easier, faster and faster, and before I knew it, I had captured well over a hundred of them. Even more amazing was the fact that well after the assignment was over, I found myself unconsciously pointing out “grids” in my everyday life. My brain was simply primed to see them.
Now, it's unlikely noticing grids will do any of us much good in terms of enhanced quality of life, but choosing to focus on positive mantras will certainly have an impact. Imagine the results of a simple affirmation like “I choose kindness.” Suddenly, even walking along a busy city street feels a little different – you start to notice the older couple holding hands, the stranger who smiles as you catch his eye or the way a toddler runs into its parent’s arms. Choose to practice an affirmation like “I respect my body and I am healthy,” and watch the apples at the grocery store become a little brighter, your healthy lunch choice seem a little more satisfying, and your smoothie beg for an extra handful of greens. By setting up an inward mantra, you are training your brain to exist in a happier state though the simple act of intention and repetition.
There are no rules or limitations for positive affirmations. Some people repeat their favorite mantra several times in the morning, while other people print out an affirmation and keep it in sight throughout their workday. Some people download apps with prepopulated quotes and others prefer to make up an affirmation that feels right for their needs. Regardless of the method you choose, if you explore and develop these mental skills, you'll likely find your mind, body and spirit will thank you generously.