Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be happy? Like truly happy? I mean, like those people who find joy in things even when it seems like they have a permanent rain cloud affixed to their circumstances?
2020 has really thrown us all for a loop. We are collectively dealing with our country’s level of racism and oppression. We are also trying to manage our fear of how COVID-19 could affect our health or our finances. Some of us are also trying to figure out distance-learning with our kids. We may tell ourselves things such as “what’s next?” or “my life is falling apart” or “I can’t handle anymore.” Those negative and unhelpful thoughts can stir up anxiety, helplessness, anger, and depression. Those thoughts can make us wonder if we will ever be happy. One way to tackle these negative thoughts is through use of positive affirmations. You are probably asking yourself, what’s a positive affirmation? According to Wikipedia, it is “the psychological process of reaffirming personal values to protect self-identity.” Positive Psychology breaks that down a little further stating that positive affirmations are “positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.”
But does it really work? How? Yes, it works. Whatever we give attention to will flourish. If we focus on everything that is going wrong in our lives, that’s what we’ll believe. We will find examples that fit and reaffirm our story. But, if we change our story using positive affirmations, we are empowering ourselves to view things through a different lens. We are shifting from our rigid fear-based thinking to healthier ways of thinking. Telling yourself something like, “I’m confident that the rest will fall into place,” or “I won’t give up on myself or my dreams” can help to motivate you to stay the course or encourage positive changes in your life.
What if I don’t believe what I’m saying? It could seem very awkward to shift to this type of thinking when you’re so used to believing all of your automatic negative thoughts. It will take practice and intentionality. One helpful way to shift your thinking would be to write a few positive affirmations on sticky-notes and place them on your bathroom mirror. Read them aloud each day before you brush your teeth. When you catch yourself
making “yeah, but” comments after you read them, stop and repeat the positive phrase. Imagine what it would be like if it were true.
What if I don’t know how to get started? Ask yourself what you truly value and desire for your life. Is it confidence? Is it respect and equality? Is it happiness? Is it a loving family and support system? Is it stability? That’s your starting point.
Some examples are:
I am worthy of love.
My happiness doesn’t depend on others.
I am strong and resilient.
I treat my body with respect.
I am capable of great things.
My (depression, anxiety, self-doubt, etc) doesn’t control my life. I am fully in control of me.
When should I expect change? Change will take time. Most likely, you did not start having these automatic negative thoughts overnight. With consistency, intention, and a desire to change, you will begin to notice small changes in your thinking. You may begin to notice that you have less muscle tension, you may start sleeping better, or you may find that you go a day without crying. Celebrate these small changes, and don’t give up!