How to Use Affirmations for Self Improvement

Whether you’re trying to quit smoking, improve your eating habits, or otherwise change a negative habit into a positive one, using affirmations to support your personal self-improvement plans is a great way to change your inner self-talk. 

All of us have that inner voice that chatters on incessantly throughout the day, a sort of inner monologue consisting of our thoughts as well as sayings we’ve internalized from parents, teachers, family and society. Some of what we say to ourselves is positive, but some is negative. It’s the negative self-talk that can defeat our best efforts at change, and the type of self-talk you may wish to change if it’s bothersome to you.

Positive affirmations replace negative messages with positive ones. While no one has absolutely positive self-talk, when you shift the balance from negative to positive, you may find your mood more upbeat and changes easier to manage.

Steps to Identifying Your Current Self-Talk

The first step when you want to make any type of change is to identify where you stand today – a baseline of your current inner monologue.

In order to really tune into your inner voice, you’ll need to catch what’s going through your head at any given moment. It’s not easy! Meditation is a great way to quiet your mind enough to notice your inner dialogue. You don’t need to sit in a lotus position or light incense to meditate. Simply sit upright in a straight-back chair, feet flat on the floor and hands resting, palm up, on your lap. Close your eyes and breathe in for a count of five, then out for an even count of five. Repeat for a few minutes until you feel yourself quiet enough. Now try to notice what chatter is going through your head. What messages are you telling yourself?

Another method is to set an alarm to go off every 15 minutes. A simple kitchen timer can help you with this exercise. The second the alarm sounds, note what’s going on in your mind. Are you focused on your work or secretly fuming over a perceived slight from a coworker? Are you thinking about what to make for dinner or telling yourself you’re fat and should go on a diet? Write down any negative messages you find yourself repeating inwardly.

Lastly, notice what you actually do say aloud. Often, it’s an important clue about your internal dialogue. Do you call yourself names like lazy, fat, stupid? Somewhere along the lines, you’ve internalized those messages, and if you’d like to work on them, you can swap them out for more positive ones.

Write Your Own Affirmations

You can find pre-written affirmations online, in self-help books, or even purchase CDs and tapes of recorded affirmations. The most powerful affirmations, however, are ones you write for yourself. These messages tend to be targeted at very specific negative messages, and when repeated aloud in your own voice in a positive way, easier to change.

To write your own affirmations, use the following tips:

  • Write them in the present tense, as if you are doing or saying something now.
  • Focus on the positive. The subconscious mind, which is where the jumble of self-talk resides, can’t distinguish between negative and positives. Don’t write what you do not wish to do, but what you DO wish to do.
  • Write your affirmation on an index card or piece of paper and post it where you will see it several times a day.
  • Every time you see it, repeat it.
  • Sing your affirmation if you love music! Singing actually helps you remember affirmations better. Pick any tune you can remember easily, such as a favorite song or a children’s song, and fit your affirmation to the music. Sing it to yourself during repetitive tasks, such as washing the dishes or folding laundry.
  • Write your affirmations in a notebook. Repetitive writing also helps you remember an affirmation.

While affirmations aren’t a magic wand you can wave over your subconscious to change long-held patterns of thought, they are a viable way of shifting the tone of your inner dialogue from hurtful to supportive. They’re free, easily incorporated into your day, and another tool to use in your personal self-help toolbox.

IMAGE CREDIT: Sebastien Wiertz, Flickr Creative Commons License

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