December 14, 2010

Tip of the day—Affirmations

An affirmation is a positive statement often used in cognitive behavioral therapy.  It is meant to counter negative self talk and lead a person to thinking and being more positive overall.  An affirmation can be just about anything that you find helpful.  Many people use favorite Bible verses or quotes that they’ve learned.  Others choose to use an “I” statement—“I am becoming healthier each day”  “I am being more assertive.”  Still others prefer to use one word as a type of mantra repeated over and over—“Peace”  “Love” “Hope”. 

I can bet that many of you who are reading this are thinking about that cheesy skit on Saturday Night Live with the guy repeating positive statements to himself in the mirror.  Yep, it can be a bit cheesy, but only if you allow it to be.  Many of us use affirmations without even realizing that we are doing it.  When in conversation with someone struggling through an ordeal, you might comment, “This too shall pass.”  Or when pushing yourself on the treadmill or to make the last mile of a hike, you might say to yourself, “I think I can, I think I can” like the Little Engine that Could.  When what seems like an almost insurmountable task is before you, you might hear a loved one say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  All of those are great examples of affirmations that can be woven into daily life.

Here are some other tips and ideas for using affirmations:

  • When flipping through a magazine, reading a book, or listening to a speaker and there is a quote that has meaning to you, jot it down.  Post it somewhere that will relate to its purpose.  For example, if you think it will help you to read it in your office, post it by your computer.
  • Start your day by reading a new Bible verse.  Try to commit it to memory.  I’m always amazed that when I do this the meaning behind the verse comes up in my life that day. 
  • Try to use affirmations as part of your daily meditation.  During yoga, I often spend time in prayer.  At the end of the class during the final relaxation, I often focus on one word I need help with that day.  For example, when I am finding myself restless or impatient, I imagine that I’m breathing in patience and breathing out anxiety. 
  • Try to make your affirmation positive.  Instead of “I am being less anxious”, say to yourself “I am at peace.”  The more you say it, the more you will focus on being peaceful and the more you focus on it the more you will actually act in that manner. The basic idea behind cognitive behavioral therapy is that what you think about affects how you feel and act.  When you make healthier choices on what you focus, you’ll notice a change in how you feel.

Again, I’m not offering therapy or any other professional advice here.  This is only meant to get you thinking about ways to be happier and healthier this holiday season.  I recommend seeking out a therapist who uses cognitive behavioral therapy techniques if you think that it would be helpful.

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