Why + How to Use Affirmations

3 Steps to Writing Affirmations that Work

Last week, I mentioned that I often close my morning pages with affirmations. I’ve mentioned before that I work with affirmations as a personal development tool, but I didn’t explain the whys or hows. Today I’ll do just that.

I began using affirmations after reading about them in Louise Hay’s book, You Can Heal Your Life. Louise asserts that affirmations—statements intended to provide encouragement, emotional support, or motivation—can help you heal almost anything in your life, from self-esteem to cancer. Whether you agree or not, you can benefit from working with them, too.

Why I Use Affirmations

But first, why would you want to? To answer that, I’ll tell you why I use affirmations: As a child, I internalized several messages that no longer serve me, a fairly common occurrence based on my unscientific research. These messages generally involve explanations about the state of the world such as “you have to work hard to get ahead” or vague self-criticisms like “I’m not good enough.”

I work with affirmations to consciously change my inner monologue, and I’ve found them to be instrumental in changing my overall life outlook from negative to positive. My internal messages haven’t changed completely, of course. I still have moments of insecurity or negativity, particularly when I’m tired or have been around the people from whom I learned the original messages.

How to Work with Affirmations

You can use affirmations in many ways, including:

  • Journal with them. You can write them as a straightforward reminder to yourself, or you can delve deeper by exploring the whys behind your chosen affirmations.

  • Read or recite them aloud. Louise Hay recommends that you look into your eyes in a mirror while reading or reciting your chosen affirmation, to really internalize the message.

  • Record and listen to them each night before bed and again upon awakening. Your brain is most open to new messages when you’re transitioning between consciousness and sleep.

3 Keys to Making Affirmations Work

Whichever way you choose to work with affirmations, there are a few things that I’ve learned are critical to success in writing your affirmations.

  1. Your affirmation must be phrased positively. Of course, you’d phrase your affirmations positively, right? Isn’t that the point? You bet it is, but watch out for sneaky ‘noes,’ ‘nots,’ and their contraction relatives, ‘don’t,’ ‘won’t,’ etc. If you want to say, “I won’t worry anymore,” try “Today, I am letting go of my worries” or for a fun rhyme, “Worry free is best for me.”

  2. Affirmations work best when stated in the present. Which do you think has more power? “I will love and approve of myself more,” or “I love and approve of myself right now, just as I am.” In the first, the point of power is in the future, which may never come. In the second, you’re claiming your self-love now, in the moment. That is where your best work is done.

  3. Some part of you has to believe the affirmation. Your brain has to have some kernel of truth to latch onto and process; if you try to assert something you don’t believe at all, the message will pass right through your mind. For example, if I told myself, “You look like a supermodel today,” I doubt I’d get through the word supermodel without rolling my eyes. Instead, to validate my physical appearance, I would choose something like, “I love my body. It helps me accomplish amazing things every day.”

I’ve worked with many different affirmations over the years. Some of my long-term favorites, many of which were inspired by Louise Hay’s book, are:

  • I love and approve of myself just as I am.

  • I take full responsibility for my happiness and productivity.

  • I am doing the best I can.

  • All is well in my world.

Do you use affirmations? What are your favorites?


Kate Watson