Affirmations have become a trendy topic in the past decade. It was once practiced only by New Age-y types and satirists. Remember Stewart Smalley on Saturday Night Live in the 80s?

“I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And gosh darn people like me.”

It’s now become an important tool among self-help gurus and people interested in personal development.

But affirmations aren’t magic. It’s not as if repeating the mantra “I am skinny” one night is going to remove 50 lbs. from your body by morning. However, affirmations are fantastic for retraining your brain away from negative thinking so that you can make powerful changes.

It’s easy to get into a rut of negative thinking. You know the kind of people who invite failure, illness, and crises by dwelling on bad things? Their entire focus is on what goes wrong. It can be like an addiction. Unfortunately it also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We all can fall into this trap. Once you begin feeling sorry for yourself it begins a downward spiral. Replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations works exactly the same way. Yet instead of attracting crises you begin to attract good things into your life.

You may or may not believe in the Law of Attraction. It is the concept that Like attracts Like. For those who believe in the theory, affirmations are essential for calling in positive experiences. But even if that is too far outside your belief system, affirmations can still empower you!

So how do you begin incorporating affirmations into your life? There are a few simple steps involved.

  1. First, you have to open yourself to the possibility that affirmations can change your attitude, if not your life. Your acceptance that there is something to this power of positive thinking is essential. If you think it is a bunch of malarkey I can pretty much guarantee it won’t work. You don’t have to embrace it completely, but you do need to withhold judgment for now.

  3. Affirmations work better when you put them in the positive. For example, instead of “I am not sad” you would say “I am happy.” For that reason it can help ease you into using affirmations if you start with something you like about yourself.

  5. Spend some time thinking about what makes you special. That should easily translate into a positive statement. “I am funny.” “I am loved.” “I am smart.” If you can’t come up with an affirmation on your own check out Louise Hay’s book Heal Your Life. Louise is one of the biggest teachers of affirmation-work on the planet and has many suggestions for affirmative statements that you may find useful.

  7. Once you can generate one or two positive statements based on what you do like about yourself, it’s time to examine an area in which you attract negative thoughts. Unfortunately we all usually have a few of these right on the tips of our tongues. Again, the trick is to make it into a positive statement. If you are unhappy with your finances an affirmation could be, “I have more than enough money to pay my bills.”

  9. You don’t want to overdo it with too many affirmations in the beginning. Choose one that resonates with you and make it your focus over the next 30 days. Write it down on a notecard to carry with you so that you can refer to it at all times.

  11. Our inner chatter never stops and it usually ends up going in an unhelpful direction if you don’t rein it in. Now you can be proactive and every time you feel your self-talk going off track, refer to your notecard.

  13. Don’t forget to speak your affirmation- either internally or out loud- with conviction. The more emotion you attach to your words the more powerful they will be. Try to match the affirmation with how you would feel if it was already true.

  15. There is no minimum or maximum amount of times per day that you need to repeat your affirmation. What you will begin to see happening is that you don’t have to refer to the notecard. Your mind will go to it all on its own. That will be a sign that you are heading in the right direction and can add another affirmation to the mix.

  17. Don’t give up. Affirmations need to be repeated over and over again in order to make a difference. If you stop after a few days then you won’t make any additional progress. If you find it difficult to train your brain to refer to the affirmation then try one of these techniques:
  • Write down the affirmation 10-15 times in the morning, during the day, and at night time. Sometimes people find this works better.
  • Look in the mirror a few times a day. Repeat the affirmation while looking into your own eyes. This can help you connect to the feelings behind the affirmation.

Ideally, you will connect to your affirmation on such a deep level that it will influence your future behavior. If you connect to the affirmation that “I am at a comfortable weight” then you will be less likely to pick up an extra candy bar. You may not even be conscious of the affect your affirmation is having at first.

It’s possible that you may not be able to connect with the affirmation that you chose. If you find it too difficult to continue with your original affirmation go ahead and try another one. It’s all about baby steps. You will be able to tell if you are moving too fast because it won’t feel right. Always listen to how your body responds when you state your affirmation.

Before you know it you will find yourself making choices that support your affirmation. Good luck!

Written by Jennifer Koebele

Jennifer Koebele, MS Ed. is a freelance writer living in North Carolina. Her focus is personal development and she is working toward life coach certification.