It seems like positive affirmations have grown exponentially in popularity over the last few years. From celebrities and social media influencers, to mental health professionals and coaches, it seems like almost everyone has jumped on the affirmations bandwagon.

Affirmations can help you ease anxiety, grow your confidence, and generally feel better about your life. They can help you overcome insecurities and fears, take action in the direction of your dreams, and smash more of your goals.

But what are affirmations, and how do they work?

An affirmation is simply a statement in which you tell yourself something you want to be true about yourself, such as “I am growing a lucrative, profitable business”, or “I am on the right path to finding true love”.

You can say them aloud, write them in a notebook, or type them out in a google doc. You can stick them on post-its on your bathroom mirror, download an affirmation app on your phone, or sneak a scrap of paper with one into your purse or coat pocket where you’ll discover it later.

For some examples of positive affirmations you can start incorporating into your life, here are some lists of affirmations I’ve put together on specific topics:

How Do Affirmations Work?

Scientific research has shown that affirmations can help activate the areas of the brain that are responsible for making us feel positive emotions like happiness, ease, and confidence. A 2016 study concluded that affirmations can “decrease stress, increase well being, improve academic performance and make people more open to behavior change”.

what are affirmations and how do they work?

We all know that stress has a negative impact on our health, our sleep, our performance at our jobs, and even on our personal relationships. So it makes sense that decreasing stress and improving our overall well being would help us perform at a higher level and create positive shifts in our lives. What makes affirmations such an incredible tool is that they’re free, easy to use, and don’t require a big time commitment. You can literally get started with just 2 minutes a day! How’s that for return on investment?

Real-World Success: How an Author Used Affirmations to Land a Spot on the NY Times Bestseller List

Entrepreneur and educator Marie Forleo tells the story of her own experience with affirmations on her blog. When she was writing her book, Everything is Figureoutable, she wrote “I am a NY Times Best-selling Author” at least 15 times every day for 18 months. And guest what? When the book launched, she indeed landed a spot on the coveted list.

By repeating this affirmation, Marie helped herself start to take on the identity of a wildly successful author (even though her previous book hadn’t come close to making the list!). It helped to reprogram her brain so that she started BEING the NY Times bestselling author.

Obviously, she still had to take action – she still had to sit down regularly and bang out page after page on her computer. But repeating this affirmation and taking on this new identity (before it was actually true in her physical reality), helped her align with the energy of what she wanted to achieve. Instead of wasting time getting stuck in her head and letting self-doubt drag her down, she was able to take inspired, aligned action.

How to Choose the Most Effective Affirmations for You

Affirmations work best when you can at least partially believe them. The more they resonate with you and help you feel positive emotions, the better they’ll work at helping you achieve your goals.

When I help my clients design affirmations for themselves, I always make sure to ask them, “how much can you get on board with that statement right now?”.

what are affirmations and how do they work

If the answer on a scale of 0 to 10 is anything less than a 5 or 6, I guide them to modify the affirmation so they can at least somewhat believe what they are saying. It’s ok if the affirmation feels like a stretch, but if you’re repeating an affirmation to yourself and thinking “this is bullshit”, it will not benefit you (and you’ll likely give up on using them at all!).

For example, you might stand in front of the mirror and say to yourself, “I love my body”. But if it feels fake or insincere (especially if all you can focus on is how much you resent those love handles staring back at you!), try shifting your affirmation to something that feels more authentic. Try a statement like “I am learning to love my body” instead. This affirmation tells your brain you’re moving in the direction that you would like to go, without causing resistant feelings.

Not Sure Which Affirmations are Right for You?

If you’re not sure if the affirmation(s) you’ve picked are the right ones for you, ask how you feel when you say it aloud or write it in your journal. Remember, it’s ok if you don’t totally believe it right now. The most important thing is to make sure it evokes a good feeling inside.

Do you feel excitement? Anticipation? Potential? Motivation? Confidence? Optimism? Happiness? Ease?

Or do you feel anxiety? Sadness? Anger? Doubt? Discouragement? Frustration?

If it’s any of the latter, tweak your affirmation until it starts to feel good, or pick a different one altogether.

what are affirmations and how do they work

Don’t Force It

Do not try to force yourself to say or write an affirmation if it creates negative emotions or a resistant feeling in your body. Not only will it not work – it can even make you feel worse.

Generally speaking, affirmations are most effective for folks who are functioning fine and are mentally healthy. Perhaps they feel dissatisfied in certain areas of their life, but they’re ready to make changes to improve.

If you’re struggling with severe anxiety, depression, or low self-esteem issues, affirmations might not help you. If this is you, find a therapist who can help you identify more effective coping strategies until you’re in a healthier place.  

More Affirmations Goodness

If you’re ready to get started with affirmations and want a little extra inspiration, I’ve got 128 beautifully designed affirmation cards that you can print at home! Be sure to check out them out in my shop – I’ve got two options: