The Science Behind Positive Daily Affirmations

Just recently, positive affirmations have become part of my morning routine. About a month ago, a friend of mine introduced me to the practice, and I’ve been hooked ever since. But in the spirit of full disclosure: I used to write off this whole concept of affirmations as simply not for me. I didn’t see the point. Repeating the same trivial mantra each day in an effort to somehow feel more empowered or confident in myself? 

“No thanks—too self-indulgent,” lectured the overly critical side of my brain.  

To be fair, words of affirmation are not my usual love language. I’m more of a quality time girl (not that you asked…but now you know!). However, in this current landscape when glimmers of positivity are moments to be cherished, I’ve been finding solace in the ritual of daily affirmations. And as it turns out, there’s a real science behind this too. 

My friend was on to something when she helped shift my view of affirmations from a superficial “navel gaze” to a foundational part of self-care. After one consecutive, intentional month of starting the day with an affirmation practice, I have since noticed a meaningful difference in how I choose to move through this world. 

I am rooted, balanced, connected and attuned to my inner self which enables me to be more present for others as well. I am less anxious, reactive and short tempered which allows me to channel stress or tension into healthier coping mechanisms, rather than lashing out at my husband in emotional hysterics. I am able to mourn the heaviness of reality without losing appreciation for the beauty that continues to reveal itself around me.    

To summarize, I operate like a functional human now (which is more than I can say for past iterations of myself). But let’s return to science because you don’t have to take just my word for it—the benefits of affirming yourself are based in actual research.    


Positive Affirmations Work from a Data-Backed Perspective.

At its core, an affirmation is a statement which reinforces a positive growth mindset and works to overcome limiting beliefs that undermine your self-worth. A study from the Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Journal shows that a consistent inflow of affirmation can strengthen neural pathways to the reward centers in the brain associated with motivation, competence, decision making, prosocial behaviors and emotional regulation.

Those who practice affirmations also tend to be value- and goal-oriented, as well as hopeful for the future and resilient in the face of threats. Their mental health is often more stable too, as affirmations can help to manage symptoms of chronic stress, anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. This is not an indulgence—it’s a basic human right. 

When I carve out the space (we’re talking 10 minutes here, so it’s not exactly a major time commitment) to affirm myself each morning, I feel more aware of the person I want to be and the energy I want to radiate. I respond to circumstances in my life from a place of integration, so I don’t have to react from a defensive posture of fragmentation. 

Affirmations release pleasure chemicals, and the brain feeds on this positive stimuli. I’m telling you…it’s just plain neuroscience. My outlook is healthier because I feel encouraged rather than berated. My work is more productive because I am inspired to take on whatever the day has in store. Even my relationships are stronger because I’m in the frame of mind to nurture them. And that includes the relationship with myself.         

How to Practice Affirmations on the Daily

Below I want to share an outline of the daily affirmation practice that my friend so generously passed on to me. I hope the following questions will motivate you to explore what an affirmation practice of your own might entail. 

Whether it’s the first line item in your morning routine or the grand finale of your bedtime ritual, I think you’ll find this soothing in a time of such disconnect and disorientation:  

  1. How can I show up for myself with authentic, purposeful intention today?
  2. How can I step out of negative habits in a way that is safe and rooted in self-awareness?
  3. How can I relinquish the need for control and still maintain peace over my life?
  4. How can I settle into my own healing process to make room for sustainable growth?
  5. How can I encounter adversity with grace and understanding for myself?
  6. How can I establish healthy boundaries without any undertones of guilt?
  7. What are 10 positive character traits in myself that I notice and appreciate?
  8. What are 5 actions I can take to nourish my emotions and tap into self-love?
  9. What helps to quiet my feelings of doubt and enrich my sense of confidence?
  10. What can I do in this season to heal from the past and write a new story in the present? 
  11. What are 5 reasons why I’m enough just the way I am at this exact moment?
  12. What are 5 activities that help me to realign when I feel imbalanced or overwhelmed?

Now for the affirmative part—see what I did there? Create your own affirmation mantra and frame it in the present tense, as if it has already been manifested. Then read this affirmation out loud for at least 22 consecutive days, as this is the amount of time experts believe it takes to solidify a permanent change in the subconscious mind. Here’s mine:

I release my rigid expectation of control as a shield against the fear and chaos—whether real or just perceived. I look around me in this moment and know that I am safe. I make a choice to be grateful and fully alive in the present because it’s all I am guaranteed. 

So think it over…what will your affirmation be?

About Author

Mary-Elizabeth Meagher is a freelance writer, social media marketer, travel enthusiast, musical theatre nerd and self-described bohemian. She lives and seeks adventure in the Arizona desert, and she also blogs over at Health Be a Hippie—her personal contribution to making the internet a more authentic, vulnerable and empowering place.

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