What are positive affirmations?

Positive affirmations are like unicorns - you are not really sure if they exist (i.e. work), but the magic surrounding their very idea makes you really really want them to be true.

Originally published on Girl In The Raw.

According to world renowned authorities such as Deepak Chopra, Luise L. Hay, even Oprah, and countless spiritual guides, gurus and movements, positive affirmations do exist and work! They do not only have a profound effect on your immediate mood and wellbeing, but they have the ability to completely transform your life in any area, and by association transform lives of others around you and your relationships with them.

The Yoga philosophy teaches us that the mind is flickering, unsteady, and very easily influenced in both positive and negative directions. The Bhagavad-Gita, a scripture recognized as the “Bible of yoga”, states that our mind can be either our friend, or our enemy, and it depends solely on us. As a result of our lifestyle, our habits, upbringing, the ideas constantly streaming into our mind from so many sources, there is an underlying tendency to think negatively before thinking positively. It is so ingrained in us, that even the brightest, post positive of us, often think about failure, loss, anger, fear, etc. every single day.

Positive affirmations have one simple rule:

Catch the negative mind talk, and stop it! Replace negative ideas based in fear, judgment, anger, etc. with positive ideas based in trust, love, understanding.

Here’s an example: I’m teaching a yoga workshop over the weekend. I am afraid it won’t be successful, and even without noticing, I constantly think - maybe people won’t show. Maybe they won’t like it. What if I mess up? And the list goes on… If you let it, the mind will chew on that story long after the event in question even passes. And the worst part is - it will show on my face and in my voice when I teach the workshop, and yes, there is a very good chance with that attitude, I won’t really deliver a good event.

Positive affirmations to the rescue: I consciously have to stop my mind from telling me this story, and replace it with positive ideas. Even if it seems completely unrealistic, and I do not even believe it, I will start saying: My workshop will be great. People will have a good time and learn something that will improve their practice and relationship with yoga. I will do my best and that is all that matters.

What is that “negative talk”?

We all have special thought patterns that we’ve been cultivating, like a good kombucha for, well, probably years. We have a set of mind schemes we pull out whenever a new opportunity arises.

  • Recognize any of these:

  • I’m fat/skinny/short/tall/too much or too little something..

  • I am not capable of doing it

  • It won’t work out

  • It will be a failure, just like that time…

  • They don’t love me

  • I am not wanted there/then

  • It’s a waste of time

  • I’m being lied to

  • I don’t have enough money

  • I don’t have enough respect

  • This always happens to me

  • I am not happy

Let’s take the last one, for example. Imagine what kind of an effect it has on our lives to say frequently I am not happy?

Even in an ‘innocent’ sentence such as “I am not happy with this. I was not happy in that situation. This happened, and I was not happy at all…”, the negative sprout is there. Imagine someone was there, every day, telling you “You are not happy”. Even the most secure, ecstatic person will encounter one obstacle, one moment when they are just feeling down. The voice will be there to support that feeling with “You are not happy” - and they will start to believe it. It will work!

Well, that is exactly what is happening to us every day. Except, besides all the possible negative ideas influencing us from the outside world, there is one, very very powerful voice, inside our mind telling us that story. The moment you feel anything other than sheer joy (which is often), the voice starts to become louder, stronger. And before you know it, you are listening to that voice, and all it’s bad ideas - Walk way. Run away! Be angry, they don’t love you. Fight, you are not being understood. Give up. Share your negative talk with others, tell them how they aren’t happy either. The list goes on and on…

The root of negative talk dates way way back.. and therefore, in order to perform Positive Affirmations, it doesn’t even matter! You don’t have to go to therapy and discover when was the first time your daddy told you something you didn’t want to hear, and then it all began.. (although, by all means, try every and any therapy there is and be aware of how your past, your parents, your relationships affect you).

Positive affirmations are a therapy in themselves, and all that matters is what you are thinking right now, and how to start thinking positively in the future. The past can stay where it is.

How to do Positive Affirmations?

At the beginning, choose one thought/goal/idea to dedicate positive affirmations to. It can be anything, from your health, to love life, to work. Preferably, start with something that has been on your mind, maybe bugging you, for some time. Yes, it does take some self-inquiry, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find one negative talk pattern to start off with.

Acknowledge the negative talk, and then find it’s positive counterpart and start saying it. To yourself. Every time you feel like saying the negative stuff instead.

You can make positive affirmations into a meditation, a ritual, or an affirmation for your yoga practice. Spend a few moments each day thinking the words, and feeling emotions related to them. For example, if your affirmation is “I am happy in my marriage”, then find happiness in your heart and bathe in it, explore it, grow it. Slowly, start to act on your affirmation. When your husband says something you could easily snap to, smile instead. Remember your affirmation, and let go of the need to create a negative situation.

Once you start practicing positive affirmations, you will learn to check in with yourself throughout the day. When thinking about work first thing in the morning, when checking your phone for a call from that special someone, when planning the future and making important decisions - any moment, event and relationship are an opportunity to think positively or negatively. “It will suck” versus “It will be great”.

With time, you will learn to catch the negative talk before it sprouts and starts growing, and develop the positive mind set instead. And that’s the way of becoming a positive person.

The true benefit of Positive Affirmations…

… is the fact that they are a goal in themselves. Our lives are 90% personal experience, and 10% outside world and external experience. You can have something amazing happening from outside, but feel miserable on the inside, and vice versa. Therefore, even if you start using positive affirmations to physically change something about you or your life (like loosing weight or finding a life partner), once you develop positive thinking, even if the world did not actually change, you will. And that is the ultimate goal. Instead of seeking satisfaction from outside (I will be happy when… ), you simply become happy. And when you are happy, nothing else really matters. Those things you thought will make you happy, become irrelevant. You are happy!

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