Do Affirmations Really Work?
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That's a good question. Affirmations are words or phrases that can be the catalyst for changes within yourself. To make an affirmation work, you have to start with something you believe as you replace negative messages with hope. If they sound just too feel-good to be true, they probably will be meaningless to you. You do have the power to change your beliefs, but you won't do it overnight and you won't do it by just pretending you accept something as true.

For example. If you are very unhappy with your body or weight, you could look in a mirror nightly for years and tell yourself, "I have a beautiful body," and not change inside how you feel about yourself. Instead, pick out one thing about yourself that you do like. Make it believable and build upon it.

Your affirmation might be, "I have nice cheekbones," or "I like the different tones of color in my hair." Or, to borrow an affirmation from Body Sense, it could be "My body is only a part of who I am." Or, "I am more than my weight."

Here's six steps that you'll find helpful.

1. First, stop yourself the next time you give yourself a message that is judgmental, critical and blaming.

2. Think for a moment about where that message came from, then ask yourself why you keep hurting yourself with it today.

3. Give yourself permission to replace it with an encouraging message. If you find it hard to give yourself encouragement, think about what you might say to a friend.

4. Write down your negative message, then your replacement affirmation messages on reminder cards. Index cards work especially good for this because you can carry them with you in your purse, briefcase or in your car.

5. Practice, practice and practice some more. Gradually, you'll replace the negative thought with one more encouraging. From there, you can continue to build.

6. Remember, affirmations can be yet another tool that helps reduce your stress, depression and your using food or compulsive behaviors to push away those unhealthy feelings temporarily. The latest research shows that treating yourself to something pleasant can increase your serotonin, something many people have been trying to accomplish with food. (For more info about how affirmations can change how you feel and what you eat, and how chemicals within your body affect your eating, read "Burning Self-Talk Garbage and Recognizing the Chemical Factor" in Body Sense.)

Here's a few more examples for the road!

Negative Message: What I say is not important. I'm not important.

Affirmation: I have a right to be heard.

As many of you know, that's a powerful affirmation, especially if you grew up in a home where you were not allowed to have an opinion, or were afraid of voicing one.

Negative Message: This stuff sounds too hard to me. I'll never keep doing it.

Affirmation: I value myself enough to keep practicing, and trust with practice will come change.

Negative Message: I'm stupid. I can't get anything right.

Affirmation: Everyone learns differently. I can get help if I don't understand. It doesn't mean I'm weak, but that I am willing to learn. Only the smartest people admit they don't know everything.

If you'd like to learn more strategies to decrease your stress, check out our online course Improving Your Relationships. If you'd like to receive an e-mail when our Decrease Your Stress Course begins, click here.

Copyright 2001 Brenda Crawford-Clark