These statements that you think or say aloud to your-self are designed to change how you feel about yourself, your world, other people—and your perspective in general. They are also used to motivate and energize, to reinforce goals you wish to stick to, and to decrease negative thought patterns.

Self-affirmations were popularized by French psychologist Émile Coué in the 1920s in his book Self-Mastery Through Conscious Autosuggestion. Coué believed that people could heal themselves by using such statements to mobilize the imagination to reprogram their brains. His most famous affirmation, “Every day in every way, I’m getting better and better,” is still used as a common affirmation today.

How do affirmations work? The scientific thinking is that when you say, for instance, “Exercise is an inherent, effortless, and enjoyable part of my day,” repeating it several times, you create a grooved pathway in your brain (by affirming this thought to yourself) that makes believing the affirmation and committing to it automatic and effortless. In addition, when you fill your mind with positive thoughts, they lead to positive feelings and actions. Your thoughts cause chemical reactions in your brain and body and influence your behavior. If the thought is negative, so is the chemical reaction, which leads to negative feelings and behaviors, and vice versa; positive thoughts yield positive chemical reactions, which lead to positive feelings and behaviors.

I use affirmations constantly for myself and prescribe them to every client during every session. I choose phrases that focus on the most important goals, values, and aspirations you have for yourself in your life. If you want to lose weight, statements that support and reinforce this goal make sense. If it is stress relief and relaxation you are after, use statements about maximizing serenity and tranquility. Affirmations work because your brain remodels itself based on what you ask it to do, and positive, self-affirming statements do just that—they create neural pathways in your brain that reinforce positive messages. Here are some little magic bullets you can use on almost anything because they tap into your unconscious and make it a conscious working part of your mind.

  • Improve mood: “Divine energy flows through me, and I am filled with happiness.”
  • Decrease negative thoughts: “I know that the positive energy of the universe is flowing through me and revitalizing my being.” “I accept only positive energy into my mind, body, and life.”
  • Increase self-worth: “I love myself just as I am.” “I am lovable and worthy of love.”
  • Rev up energy: “I am radiant, shining, with an abundance of energy.” “My body is vibrant, glowing, shimmering with energy.”
  • Foster resilience: “The challenges and obstacles I face are gifts of learning and growing.”
  • Promote healthy eating: “I love nutritionally dense foods that invigorate, strengthen, and energize my body and soul.”

THE AFFIRMATION HABIT

When you practice affirmations enough, they become automatic and spread to all areas of your life.

I’ve learned that one of the best ways to implement affirmations is right when a negative thought arises. I hear plenty of negative thoughts as I’m training my clients because people feel insecure about their performance and voice how they are feeling. For example: “I can’t do that, I’m too uncoordinated”…“That’s too hard for me”…“I can’t do any more.”

My response is usually “I know you can do this. Let’s go, and while you’re doing five more leg pendulums, please repeat after me, ‘I have amazing co-ordination. I can easily do any and every exercise. I have an abundance of energy. I can do whatever I want whenever I want to do it.’ ”

I was working with my client Sylvia, who has used these affirmations several times, and she said, “I have to thank you. I was unexpectedly called into a big meeting at work the other day, and my mind immediately started telling me that I wasn’t prepared. My chest got tight, and I started to sweat profusely, but then I heard your voice telling me to repeat the affirmations. So I walked down the hall to the meeting repeating to myself, ‘I can do anything at any moment in time.”

Sylvia said she felt great during the meeting, and her boss piped up at the end, boasting to her co-workers, “Do you see why she is on my team? She’s a rock star!”

Check out Joel Harper’s website, or click here to buy his book, Mind Your Body: 4 Weeks to a Leaner, Healthier Life.