What are Positive Affirmations?

What are Positive Affirmations and How Do They Work?

For decades, positive affirmations have been helping people all over the world to fulfill their dreams and accomplish their goals. But what are they exactly? Simply put, positive affirmations are positive statements that proclaim a specific goal in its completed state. This statement is then repeated to one’s self with extreme confidence. The human brain is not able to distinguish the difference between reality and its perceived reality. Therefore, as your brain continues to receive the same message repeatedly, whether that be positive or negative, it begins to believe that message is factual; it becomes your perceived reality.

It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well not so fast! True positive affirmations are not just positive statements that you throw on your mirror and repeat throughout the day. As a matter of fact, there is a very specific recipe that needs to be followed in order for your brain to actually hear and believe these messages.

  • Always use the present tense. A successful positive affirmation is always spoken in the present tense as if the stated goal has already been accomplished. “I AM successful in my career.”

  • Never use critical or negative words. Remember, over time, your brain believes what it hears over and over. Rather than making negative affirmations, “That cake will go straight to my hips,” only use positive words. “I am happy and healthy, and I make wise food choices.”
  • Always speak the statement as a fact. A factual statement will tell your brain that your status is current and existing. “I can breathe easily and my lungs are clean.” If you repeat wishes or desires, your brain believes that you have not yet reached your desired outcome. “I wish I would quit smoking.”


Now that we know what it takes to create successful positive affirmations, what exactly is the secret? How do these repeated statements “trick” our brains into believing them and help to modify our behavior?

Well, the answer is that our brain is not tricked at all. Actually, it is simply hyper-aware of our goals and desires, and it puts in overtime to help us achieve them. As a part of the neural network in our brains, there is a tiny bundle of nerves known as the Reticular Activating System. This tiny bundle of nerves acts as the information gatekeeper. It is a filter for all of the external messages the brain processes using all six of the senses. Imagine if there was no gatekeeper. If we did not filter the never-ending supply of stimuli, we would, literally, incapacitate ourselves with information overload. As a matter of self-preservation, your filter accepts only the information that relates to those things that are important to you based on your needs, wants, goals and interests. Let’s take a look at how this works. Imagine you and your teenage kid are in an airport sitting at your gate. You decide that you want to find a good book for the flight, while your kid determines his cell phone needs to be charged before takeoff. As you are sitting at your gate, you start to notice all of the books for sale in the nearby newsstands, and your teen starts to notice all of the outlets and charging stations near the gate. These things did not suddenly appear nearby. Your Reticular Activating System just recognized your immediate desires. Now your gatekeeper has allowed the associated visual information (the newsstands & the chargers) to be recognized as a pertinent solution to satisfy your needs. Simply put, repeating your positive affirmation over and over, essentially wakes up your gatekeeper and teaches it what is important to you.

Now that we have covered the basics of positive affirmation, it is time for you to put it into action. Remember, in order to be successful, you must always state your affirmations as a fact in the present tense and refrain from using any negative language. Repeat your affirmation multiple times each day, and you will find yourself surrounded by much more positive energy. The key to making personal changes is to make small changes at regular intervals!

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