How positive affirmations affect your brain and change your thoughts
When you change your thinking process, everything in your life often changes as well. Doing positive affirmations is consciously choosing to think certain thoughts that will create positive results in the future. They create a focal point that will allow you to begin changing your thinking. Research shows that the power of boiling down positive thoughts to simple, repeated phrases rewires the brain and boosts psychological resources. In fact, this simple tool can help change your life.
The science behind positive affirmations
When we have a thought, there’s a burst of neurochemicals in our brains. Patterns form between brain cells, which are connected by synapses. The more we have a particular thought, the quicker and stronger the synapses pass along that message. In addition, the emotions we attach to specific thoughts become more automatic and powerful the more often we repeat those thoughts. That’s how positive affirmations can affect our brain’s natural processes to alter our experience of life.
A research summary in The Indian Journal of Psychiatry addresses the power of positive affirmations, noting specifically that neurotransmitters are affected by affirmations. The brain uses neurotransmitters to communicate information continuously, and affirmations seem to set positive pathways for these brain travelers.
The research indicates that beliefs are not only thoughts we hold but are actual brain mechanisms mixed with emotions. The input our brain takes in from the environment goes through a filtering process as it all travels across one or more synapses. Eventually, information reaches an area of higher processing, such as the frontal lobes. This is what we think of as conscious awareness. However, the portion of our sensory information reaches these higher levels is to some degree determined by our beliefs. Essentially, we can create a more positive belief system by inputting more positive thoughts.
A later study, published in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, was able to capture the effect of affirmations using an MRI. Participants who gave positive self-affirmations showed increased activity in various parts of the prefrontal cortex and other areas of the brain. Moreover, participants with greater stimulation in those sections of the brain – which control processing and valuation – exhibited less sedentary behavior afterward than participants who did not provide positive self-affirmations. This research indicates that future behavior, as well as thoughts, can be improved by positive affirmations.
It’s empowering to realize that even when we feel stuck in our emotions, there is a biochemical potential for positive change and growth. When we repeat a positive intention, we become open to pieces of sensory information that we’d previously been blocking with a negative belief. This becomes a self-reinforcing pattern of thought, belief, behavior. But with positive affirmations, science shows we can change those patterns.
Benefits of positive affirmations
We all have long-term goals in life we want to achieve that may seem out of reach, and sometimes we may be reluctant to take even that first step. Certainly, affirmations can be helpful in those situations. They can improve our self-confidence and ability to overcome obstacles. But positive self-talk also allows us to deal with even more immediate mental and physical health concerns.
For instance, affirmations are helpful for depression and anxiety, which often come with repeated, negative thoughts that reinforce the difficult emotions. Adding a positive mantra to your routine can work for anyone because you don’t have to feel that it’s true at first. Simply say it, and the brain and emotional benefits will follow.
Here are five positive affirmations you can try:
I Am Worthy
(I am worthy of love and care)
I Am Purpose
(I can tap into inner resources of strength and peace)
I Am Fearless
(I am capable to achieve all that I want)
I Am Power
(I will move beyond my fears)
I Am Limitless
(My mind is strong, healthy and at peace)
Practicing Positive Affirmations
The most powerful positive affirmations are going to be ones that go directly against negative thought patterns you have. Identify a few of your ongoing negative thoughts by paying close attention to your thoughts over a week. Once you notice a frequent negative thought, choose a positive affirmation to replace it. It could be that you think you never work hard enough and find yourself saying, “I’m lazy.” Instead, try saying, “When I get tired, it’s okay to take a break.” Your affirmation can be shorter than that, but you don’t want it to be too long. Keep it simple to say and easy to repeat.
Then, you’ll want to practice rewiring your brain by saying your affirmation in a meditative way, for a few minutes in the morning, afternoon and evening. If you’re especially busy, don’t worry, you can say affirmations quietly to yourself almost anywhere. The important thing is to be able to focus for those few moments on your new, positive thought.
When we change our thoughts, our beliefs follow. When we change our beliefs, our behavior follows. In this way, we change our lives. Along with your positive affirmations, try this meditation by Rose Caiola for “Creating Change” in your life.