Affirmations: What Are They And Do They Work?

Affirmations seem to be everywhere. In books, articles and research papers. But what are affirmations and do they work?

What we think we become - affirmations change what we think

I know that when I’m feeling positive I can get loads of things done. I feel good about myself. Problems become an inconvenience rather than a big issue.

But, when I’m feeling low it seems that everything I turn my hand to goes wrong.

Does this make sense to you?

So, what if I was to tell you that you could think yourself positive? Would you believe me?

Well, I am here to tell you that you can think yourself positive. As a result you will get more done and feel better about yourself.

And affirmations are the way to do it.

Why We Need Affirmations

In my article – ‘what’s your inner critic called’ I spoke about how we all have an inner voice that tells us:

  • don’t do this, you’re going to fail
  • no, don’t speak up, you will embarrass yourself
  • other people are going to think you are (insert the appropriate phrase here)
  • you can’t do that you don’t have the skills, confidence, experience, looks, ability.
  • you are fat, unattractive, a slob. Unable to cope with the simplest tasks. You’re disorganised. You’ll never get everything done. No-one likes you. In fact you might as well give up

The problem is that if this dialogue is repeated often enough, we start to believe it.

And this way of thinking is destructive. It sabotages our ability to be successful.

What Are Affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements we tell ourselves to get things done. Their purpose is to take a negative thought and turn it into a positive belief.

So, if we take the first example above:

‘Don’t do this, you are going to fail’

We could change it to be:

‘Doing this will make you successful’ or to put it more simply ‘you can do this’

Creating affirmations are straightforward. You take a negative and turn it into a positive. That’s the easiest part. Believing them takes a bit more practice.

An article, published in Psychology Today, stated that under performance disappears when people self-affirm. In fact they call it a ‘beneficial elixir‘

So, telling ourselves positive things, results in better performance. Whatever task we set ourselves.

But saying it is one thing, the trick is to believe it. And personally this is where I struggle.

Where did Affirmations come from?

You may think that affirmations are a recent form of self-development. But they were actually created in 1901 by Émile Coué de la Châtaigneraie, a psychologist and pharmacist.

Émile Coué discovered that optimistic auto-suggestion helped his patients recover from illness. He did this through one of the most famous affirmations created. “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better’

affirmation every day in every way I'm getting better and better

His patients would repeat this affirmation twenty times a day. Particularly in the morning and evening. As a result the patients could cure themselves. They replaced their “thought of illness” with a new “thought of cure”.

What are affirmations used for?

The original use was to make patients believe that they were getting better. Now, they are used in almost every area of life including:

  • Building confidence
  • Enforcing habits
  • Improving productivity
  • Increasing self-esteem

So let’s have a look at how you can write your own affirmation statement.

How to write an affirmation statement

When writing an affirmation there are 5 steps to go through.

1. Decide what area of your life you would like to change

As we discovered in setting goals, having too many targets can be overwhelming. And when we are overwhelmed we do not follow through on things.

The trick is to sit down and think carefully about an area of your life that you would like to change. Something that you really want and you have a good understanding as to why you want it.

2. The statement is realistic and achievable

The affirmation needs to be believable and based on facts. For example imagine that you are unhappy about your financial situation. You spend money too easily on things that you do not really want. You could use affirmations to reduce your spending habits. Tell yourself ‘I am a savvy shopper, I only buy what I absolutely need’.

It wouldn’t be wise to affirm that you are going to win the lottery. Let’s face it affirmations are good, but they are not magic spells.

3. Turn a negative into a positive

If you are struggling with the negative self-talk turn the negative into a positive. For example if you always tell yourself you are useless because you never finish a project. Tell yourself that ‘I can do this’.

4. Write in the present tense and use personal pronouns

The statement has to have meaning to you. Use ‘I’, ‘me’ ‘my’ to really personalise it.

Writing in the present tense also helps you to believe that it is already happening. That the statement is true right now. It is a bit like tricking the brain. If we say something often and long enough, we begin to believe it.

5. Say It with feeling

Giving something emotional weight means that they are more effective. We connect with things that we are invested in. This reinforces the sense of self-belief.

so when you are telling yourself ‘I can do this’, say it with real passion and conviction.

Using Affirmations

Affirmations are like goals. If you do not look at them frequently, then we forget all about them. So, once you have written your affirmation out, make sure that you refer to it often.

Be Visible

Have a visible clue around you during the day. Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • A note on your noticeboard or on your desk
  • A note on your mobile phone – you could even set a reminder to look at it

Reinforce the Belief

To reinforce the affirmation, say it out loud. Some people say that saying it in front of a mirror every morning and evening helps to reinforce the belief. Speaking to your reflection is like speaking to your inner self.

I will admit that I did feel really self-conscious about this at the beginning. But after a while it is something that gets easier – believe me.

If you meditate, you could even use your affirmation as part of your meditation practice.

Repetition is Key

The important thing is that you repeat your affirmation several times during the day. It is this repetition that is key.

Émile Coué got his patients to repeat his affirmation twenty times in a day. I think this is a good guideline.

I would suggest repeating the affirmation five times at four specific times of the day. And definitely when you wake up and before you go to bed.


Affirmations are positive statements we tell ourselves. They silence the negative voices in our heads (or if you prefer, the inner critic)’

From its humble beginnings in 1901 with ‘‘every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better’. We continue to use affirmations with positive results.

But, the statement on its own is not enough. There are 5 steps that need to be followed. It is not just writing them down. Repetition is key so that the message is reinforced. Believing in the statement requires an emotional connection.

‘Self-talk has a great impact on your level of success’

Hal Elrod – The Miracle Morning

Affirmations do work. Just remember to write them and apply them in the right way.

Have you tried using affirmations? I would love to know about your experience of them.

Or, is this something that you are going to try but not sure if you are ready. If you need any support with this, please feel free to contact me by either leaving a comment in the box below or by sending me a message through the contact me link.

About the author Alison

A qualified UK based coach with 30 years of experience in personal development.

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