Episode 56: How Affirmations Help You Think Better

We all experience  automatic negative thoughts. They come really without our choice, and they can also make our life feel really heavy and hard when we’re worrying about the future or unforgiving of mistakes or maybe even thinking of the worst things that could happen in our life.  Negative thoughts tend to become habitual thinking and come so fast into our heads that we’re totally at their mercy. One of the ways to deal with this is to create alternative thoughts that give us more possibility and that match more of how we want to think. This is what affirmations do, they counter detrimental thoughts with empowering truths about ourselves, 

In this episode, I show you how to draft affirmations that are not mere platitudes but reflections of your deepest strengths. Whether you’re affirming “I am safe” or celebrating that “There is more love in my life than fear,” you can cultivate a practice of affirmations that mirror the support you’d give to a cherished friend!  Join me as we talk about affirmation so we can think better and feel better!

What you will learn on this episode:

– The link between automatic negative thoughts, our survival instincts, and their impact on emotions and reality.

– How to recognize that thoughts are optional and selectively engage with them to craft a positive internal dialogue.

– The role of affirmations in replacing detrimental thoughts with empowering truths about oneself.

– Understanding the transformational power of affirmations in altering negative thought patterns.

– Crafting affirmations that are powerful, believable, and reflect true values.

– The necessity of preparing affirmations in advance to combat overwhelming negative thoughts during challenging times.

– The concept of affirmations as bridges from negative thoughts to empowering beliefs.

– Practical tips for creating and practicing personal affirmations to counter negative self-talk.

– Examples of affirmations to overcome fear, self-doubt, and cultivate a sense of safety and love.

– Methods for incorporating affirmations into daily life and making them a regular practice for better mental health.

– Encouragement to be patient and allow affirmations to become more believable over time through consistent practice.


*This transcription below was provided for you or your convenience; please excuse any mistakes that the automated service made in translation.

Hi, everyone, it’s great to be with you guys again today, and today we’re extending our conversation on negative thoughts and automated negative thoughts and what we can do to try to address them, and do that in the positive. And so today we’re talking about affirmations because the internal dialogues that play in our head each day, that thinking, the thoughts that we have it really has the power to create our feelings and literally create our reality. So hopefully by now you’ve had the chance to learn that what you think determines how you feel and that we have the power to shape our feelings and create the life we want through understanding and managing the thoughts that we think. So this just might be the most underestimated piece of knowledge in our world today, and this is why Our thinking can feel like it’s completely out of our control. We have so many thoughts a day no one knows exactly how many, but some estimates are in the tens of thousands and a large number perhaps as many as 70% of these are considered to be potentially negative, and this isn’t a surprise. Once you understand that the primary goal of your brain is to ensure survival, it makes sense that we’d spend a lot of thoughts scanning for what’s wrong in order to avoid danger. These thoughts are automated because survival is non-negotiable for our brain. We talked a lot about this in episode 55 last week. 

So the problem we end up with is a lot of automatic negative thoughts. They come really without our choice, and they can also make our life feel really heavy and hard when we’re worrying about the future or unforgiving of mistakes or counting our weak points and thinking of the worst things that could possibly happen, and they tend to become habitual thinking and come so fast into our heads that we’re totally at their mercy. So there are several ways we can work with our thoughts, and this is a little quick review. One is to simply be aware of them and change our relationship with them so they’re not becoming our reality, because most of us grow into adulthood completely unaware that our thoughts are separate from who we are. And we’ve talked about this very early on in our podcast journey together, in episode 5, your internal world, and episode 15, resilient Thinking, episode 37, don’t Believe Everything you Think, and just last week we looked at automated negative thoughts, where we defined a negative thought as one that is not helpful or useful to us and how we can have them so automatically. So in all of our study on this, basically, the key to dealing with negative thoughts is to recognize that thoughts do not need to be automatically followed, believed and obeyed. They are literally optional, and because you are the thinker and every day you get served up a whole buffet of thoughts some that are helpful and useful to you and some that hold you back and create suffering we need to learn to have a different relationship with our thoughts so you can be the person that chooses which thoughts you’re going to be able to pay attention to and which thoughts you’re going to not engage with. Even just knowing you don’t have to pay attention to all your thoughts is just life-changing, isn’t it? It’s such a new and freeing concept for most of us. So the power you have to choose your thoughts is what really gives us the option to design our own thinking path, to design the thoughts that we decide are useful and helpful to us, and one way to do this is through creating and practicing affirmations. An affirmation is a statement of truth about who you are, characteristics you embody or the beliefs you hold about life and how that surrounds you, and these really are meant to replace negative thoughts and beliefs that we have about ourselves and also strengthen and empower us, and I’m a great believer in the power of affirmations. 

For years, I’ve struggled with an overactive, negative brain. I understand why because when I was a child and a teenager, I had traumatic events happen in my family from financial distress, illness, lots of loss, and I made it through the challenges with seemingly no ill effect on the outside. And I made it through the challenges with seemingly no ill effect on the outside, but on the inside I walked away with a very hypervigilant, negativity, bias in my thinking, and how this has showed up in my thinking is this If there’s a possible negative outcome from any situation I was in, I felt like I had to predict it, I had to prepare for it and almost reward myself for seeing it before it happened. And, needless to say, I’ve lived with a lot of anxiety because of this, and maybe you have too. Things we experience in our history, in our life, can really influence us and affect our thinking. 

You may be able to put your finger on something that happened to you when you were younger, or maybe living in a family where you have someone a parent or someone close to you that really was a worrier or tended to kind of model those negative thoughts for you, and sometimes it’s helpful to be able to put your finger on. Where does this kind of thinking come from for me, but I also think it’s not important that you necessarily have to track it and come up with the source. I think it’s very normal for human beings to have this negative thinking come up, and we see it in our children when we know that there’s no prominent trauma, there’s nothing happening to model negative thinking for them. We’ll still see it in our kids sometimes, where they’re just kind of overrun by this focus on the negative and it’s so easy for that to become automatic, where it’s just served to us without our choice or our kids are experiencing it and it sometimes seems like they’re choosing it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a choice. 

So affirmations, I find, is a really great tool in being able to give us something that we can apply with purpose, with awareness, by our choice to work with our thinking. What we’re doing is just shifting our thinking. We’re not eliminating negative thoughts Because, remember, the more that we fight against negative thoughts, really, the more we focus on them, the more powerful they become. So we’re looking at affirmations to help us kind of go around our negative thinking and sometimes even get ahead of those negative thoughts to lay down another pathway for our thinking. So in some ways it’s kind of like we’re sidestepping that avalanche of negative thinking and we’re like just you go on. You know, go on with those thoughts. You have those thoughts, that’s fine. 

I’m also going to add to the mix something else. I’m going to have a portion of something else that I am going to choose instead of what my mind is just bringing me, and we have some really good research emerging about the immense power of affirmations in all areas of our life, particularly when we’re looking at affirming truths about things that we care about, about characteristics that matter to us, that we are developing in spite of some of the challenges that we’re facing. And researchers are finding that affirmations actually help hold us stable in the face of challenges, of times when we are discouraged or when we’re facing adversity, that when we can affirm the things that we know to be true about ourselves, it sets off this balancing, foundational place for us to stand on and get through those difficult times. When we set our affirmations, we’re making choices in how we’re going to think, balancing foundational place for us to stand on and get through those difficult times. When we set our affirmations, we’re making choices in how we’re going to think and retraining our mind to listen to us, to operate in a way that we choose to operate, as opposed to simply reacting to, maybe, that bias that our brain brings us. That’s very negative and I like to think of it like this we often have thoughts that don’t serve us and cause problems for us, and we know that there are thoughts that would help us feel better and would serve us more and take us to a better place. 


And sometimes it feels like there’s a big river in between where we are now and where we want to be in our thinking, and we need a bridge to help us cross that chasm, to get to the other side, where we can think more powerfully, more accurately, with more strength and hope and, ultimately, resilience. So how can we get across that chasm? What is our bridge? It would be a different thought, actually a different kind of thought, one that has more of what we truly want to believe and, hopefully, that we think is more true and helpful for us. This is the purpose of an affirmation. So affirmations are positive statements. When we use the word positive, we mean useful, helpful to us. They can also be thoughts that you desire to more deeply believe, thoughts that you want to strengthen and that you want to automate. So they’re kind of like seeds that we’re planting in our mind and we’re nurturing and we’re growing them so that our self-belief becomes strong in the direction that we choose for it to grow, and this kind of helps us reprogram our minds and, of course, replace those limiting beliefs with empowering ones. 


So let’s explore some specific examples of how a negative self-talk could be occurring and the corresponding affirmation that might help shift the perspective. If I have a negative thought, I’m not good enough, an affirmation that could directly correct this would be I’m worthy of love and respect just as I am. I’ll never succeed. Could have an affirmation that states I’m capable of overcoming challenges. If I have the thought I always mess things up, I can have the affirmation I learn from my mistakes and grow stronger with every experience. 


Did you notice that these affirmations were not just super positive thoughts? I think it’s important to remember that that’s not what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to sugarcoat things or deny reality or ignore challenges. We’re just trying to find that mindset, that thought that’s going to give us more possibility, more choice, widen the way we look at something rather than narrow it, and help it be something that we feel more powerful about. So we need to start practicing these kinds of thoughts ahead of time, because right in the middle of our hard times, the times when your negative thoughts are literally kind of beating you up, you might not be able to grab a hold of these affirmations and just list your strengths or find something that’s more believable, more rational, because a lot of those negative thoughts are automated. So when you’re flooded with those big emotions that come with those negative thoughts, you can’t think as clearly and your heart rate and breathing and emotions are all in that fight or flight mode. So the time for us to practice our affirmations is beforehand. So we want to do this a different way, where we prepare for those truths and we are going to have them familiar to us when we need them, rather than try to grab for them and have it just feel so strange because we’re not used to them. 


Here are a few things to think about as you consider creating your own personal affirmations to combat those negative thoughts. Number one you want to create powerful affirmations that anchor you and you want these to be true. At some sense in your wisdom, you sense that these are true beliefs and they go deep into what really matters to you, to what you really value. So you can start by making a list with the phrase what I know about myself is starting to look for those things that you feel are part of who you are, that you can trust, that you love, that you care about. For example, what I know about myself is that I’m a kind person, I’m a hard worker, I love deeply, I am committed. You can also look at areas of your life and your character that you want to deepen and strengthen. I’m brave, I’m patient with myself. Now these might not feel 100% true yet, but your bravery and patience within you, those are things that you’re working to strengthen. You’re saying, okay, this is the core of what I’m going to be building and working on. 


Think of anything in your life that you want to change and put words to those things. Maybe it is patience, maybe it’s feeling peace. You can state I value peace and I’m feeling more of it in my life each day. Do you hear how? That’s kind of reasonable? It’s not denying the fact that many days you do not feel peaceful. It’s stating I value peace and I’m feeling more of it in my life each day. 


And when you’re going to identify whatever the thought is that you would like to change, the one that keeps coming to you, that you don’t feel great about, that isn’t helping you. I want you to be thinking about how can I take this thought and give it an antidote, give it something that would heal it somewhat or cure it from this scary thing that it’s saying to me, or this painful kind of unproductive thing it’s saying, and you can kind of ask yourself a few questions about the belief that you’re trying to shape and create. Then what would I say to someone I love about this, about making mistakes? What would I say to my child? Would I say, honey, look, life is about learning and making mistakes, and making mistakes aren’t the things that define us. They’re actually kind of signposts along the way that point us which way to go so we can learn and grow. Like, I could totally see you saying that to your child. 


But if you make a mistake, you might have this automatic negative thought that comes in and shames you or tells you you know, looks at the future and says you’re never going to get this right and that probably isn’t what you would teach to your child. So your affirmation is going to be the thought that feels more productive, the one that you probably tell your friend or your kiddo Also be thinking about. Is this new thought that I’m crafting? Does it reflect what I really believe and what I want to believe? Like? You have a choice here, which is really odd with our thoughts. Normally we don’t have choice when our negative thoughts show up, so we’re flipping this around and saying what do you want to believe and what would support you most in your goals and actually be good for you? So we’re going for the truth that you want to believe and this is what we want to automate in your thinking. This is where you get to choose what to tell yourself, in the same way you’d tell someone you love, so that phrase might be I believe I can make mistakes and still be okay. I’m still lovable, I’m still acceptable. So now this thought is in direct response to that negative thought that comes in and shames you and kind of takes your power away, and that’s how we’re bridging from where you are with that negative thought to where you want to be, and maybe where you want to be is even a little bit farther than tolerating your mistakes. Maybe it’s something like this I love and accept myself. My worth is not determined by what I do. I give myself permission to make mistakes and learn from experiences. 


Some of my favorite affirmations I use on a daily basis have to do with the thoughts and feelings around fear or not being okay, and here are a few of my favorites I am safe. There is more love in my life than fear. All things are working for my good. I give grace when I make mistakes. I have so many things to be grateful for. I developed these affirmations in direct response to the fearful and negative thoughts that were automated in my thinking, and for me these are very prescriptive. In other words, they take what makes me feel sick in my thinking, sick and afraid. Here are a few more affirmations that I claim each day and a lot of the moms I work with use. I am valued in and out of my home. I am exactly who my children need. My children love me because I’m their mother. I’m not perfect, but I’m making progress. I love who I am and who I’m becoming. I honor commitments I make to myself. I ask for help when I need it, because it makes our family stronger. I allow myself to rest every day so I can show up in the best version of myself. I accept my messy and imperfect life. I am beautiful, strong and deserve love. I forgive myself and others for any mistakes I make. These are just a few examples of affirmations that are very powerful for the women that I work with. 


I want you to be thinking about what are the negative thoughts that show up on the regular for you and how you want to think instead, and these are going to be the basis for how you create your affirmations. So when you’re crafting your affirmations, the first thing I want you to be thinking about is how to frame this in the positive. Rather than saying I won’t be hard on myself, we want to be able to flip that into the active, not the passive, version of that. I am kind to myself. You want to put it in the present tense I’m capable rather than I will be capable, and I think it’s great to use your own words and your own style. If you can’t yet say I am capable, you can say I’m growing in my ability to be capable. Whatever, you need to be able to say that your mind will accept and not kind of call BS on and start to practice building your belief in that thought. 


Start really simple. Think about what’s true for your child or your best friend, and then consider allowing that belief to be applied to you as well. This can be really fun when you start thinking about. You have a menu and you get to choose what you put on that menu of thoughts instead of just getting to consume the thoughts that get brought to you every day those things that your brain automates. You actually are building a menu of other thoughts to think about, and this could be almost a game where, when you have quiet time, when you’re walking, when your babies are sleeping and you’re just sitting there, you can be thinking about what would feel good to believe right now. 


Like, how much time do we spend on thinking about what do I want to believe? Not very much. We’re mostly just kind of battling thoughts most of the time. But this is almost a game where you get to say gosh, if I could pick any thoughts to believe and sometimes you do this for your kids first if I could make a list and the thought fairy is going to give my wish list to my children and let them believe any thought I want them to believe for their best good, what thoughts would I put on that list and then start to ease that idea into those thoughts can be applied for you too. You know the number of negative thoughts we think each day is staggering, so we want to be able to combat that with our own menu of affirmations to counter them. And so once you get an idea of this, even if you can pick one, we want to practice it. 


If I had to tell you that you needed to eat with your left hand and you were right-handed, it would take so many meals for you to begin to feel comfortable picking up your fork with the opposite hand that you’re used to. The more you did it, though, the sooner it would start to feel comfortable, and, in time, you could probably actually use your opposite hand without even thinking about it, but not without putting in the time and the effort to get comfortable with that new hand picking up the fork, and this is what we’re doing with our thoughts, so practicing these thoughts are just as important as creating ones that are going to serve you. Just creating them and letting them sit there are not going to move the needle, so practicing them is something that actually can feel super awkward and almost feel wrong, and I think when you know that it won’t be a surprise when you start to realize I’m saying these thoughts and they just don’t fit and it feels stupid, I think we’re on the right track. We’re saying I think I found the thoughts that are so unfamiliar to me. We know we’ve put the work in to make sure that they’re accurate and they’re useful. They’re not over-exaggerated, they’re very kind of sturdy thoughts that are going to take care of us. So if they feel uncomfortable, bring that on, just say great, it’s uncomfortable, I’ll take it. 


You can read them every day, maybe even a couple times a day. You could put them on your fridge, breathe and meditate to them, use them in guided imagery. You can find music that reinforces your affirmations, songs that kind of remind you of them, and play those so that you’re thinking about it without having to think about it. Right, I like to listen to affirmations when I walk. I have some that are recorded, some with music in the background, some that I listen to when I’m particularly stressed and feeling anxious. I use them like a vitamin to keep my thinking healthy when I’m doing pretty well and I’m like I’m gonna listen to my affirmations today. And I also use them like a medicine to help me treat the anxiety that might be coming up for me or when I’m feeling really discouraged. Sometimes I use them with scripture to blend my faith and the words of God guiding my thoughts and helping me refocus. 


Literally, your job is to surround yourself with the truths about who you are and how you want to show up in your life and retrain your mind and your heart to believe these truths. I guess I want to give you a really big vision of how you can begin to use your thinking by choice to help you cross this chasm and get to the other side, where you have way more say in where your thoughts take you and, ultimately, how you can feel. If this feels strange, once again completely normal, very new. So start slow, be patient, play with it, let it be something that builds and grows and that you’re not in a hurry to do. And, finally, it’s okay to not totally believe your truths yet. 


The problem with automated negative thoughts is that they’re automated, which means we’re used to them, they’re familiar and they feel natural and right, but only because they’ve been present for so long. Just like people used to think the earth was flat and sailing past the horizon would cause them to fall into oblivion, we also believe things that have no logical substance because it’s just a tradition in our thinking. This is where having faith to step out into the unknown comes in. It really takes courage to grab a hold of the truth you want in your life and reach for it, even when it doesn’t feel like it applies to you yet. Just identifying that truth you want to believe is the first step to actually embracing it, and with practice you will be able to sail past the horizon of doubt that’s in your own thinking and really come to believe the truths that you’re telling yourself. 


I practice this, you guys. I know that it’s helpful. Play with it, see how it feels. We’ll be talking more about it as we work together and I hope that it brings you another option to those negative thoughts. Thank you so much for spending time with me today and I will see you guys next week. Take care. The Leadership Parenting Podcast is for general information purposes only. It is not therapy and should not take the place of meeting with a qualified mental health professional. The information on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition, illness or disease. It’s also not intended to be legal, medical or therapeutic advice. Please consult your doctor or mental health professional for your individual circumstances. Thanks again, and take care. 


Transcribed by https://podium.page


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