Updated: Jul 1, 2022
I often engage in deep discussions about thoughts and affirmations. Do affirmations work? What about negative thoughts and why can't I get this negativity out of my head? Why do I
find myself in these same ruts of negative thoughts? Why do I have so many thoughts? They never stop, so how can affirmations help me?
Let's start with the thoughts, why there are so many, and clarify the difference between negative thoughts and negative beliefs.
The easy answer is - your thoughts come from everywhere. Your system is always taking in information - what you see, hear, feel, touch, taste, smell, etc. You are constantly processing, whether things from your past, present, and even thoughts about the future, both consciously and unconsciously.
What happens in society, culture, relationships; scrolling through social media - everything is processed in your brain, nervous system, and body. There are thousands and thousands of thoughts each day, and you may only catch a "few," if you will, both negative and positive. By the way, both are good to have. Yes, I said that - it's good to have negative and positive thoughts.
Negative thoughts are a natural part of your thinking process and can be helpful for many reasons, like alerting for danger and safety. For example, thinking about the possibility of someone breaking into your home may help you to remember to lock your door. Negative thoughts can help create healthy boundaries. Maybe you don't like how your coworker said something to you that made you feel some kind of way so you speak up.
Negative thoughts can help you identify things that are uncomfortable, give you insight into things you don't like; decrease risks, and increase decision-making and preparation for things to come. Negative thoughts generally can be helpful, normal, and useful.
The challenge occurs when your experiences, negative of course, reinforce negative thoughts and cause you to internalize those things about yourself. For example, say you failed 2 tests during your 2 semesters in college.
Instead of the negative thought, "I failed another test," it becomes entangled with other earlier life experiences and may become "I am a failure." This is when your negative thoughts rehearsed over time become belief systems and you get stuck in that rut.
As you can see I am delineating between the two - negative thoughts, and negative beliefs.
The question to ask yourself is how often does this negative thought show up in my life and cause me to feel stuck? If it's often, you are likely dealing with a negative belief. If it pops up here and there, and that negative thought produces some of the helpful things stated above, it's a negative thought.
If you've experienced negative beliefs and you are having challenges breaking out of this cycle, therapy can help you access and heal from the root of those underlying experiences to help you become unstuck.
So why do we use affirmations? Affirmations can shift your focus from that negativity into something more neutral or positive. It's not about creating affirmations that push you to strive for perfection, or to say the opposite of that negative thought. But it is about creating a different pathway to get you out of that negative headspace.
Affirmations can help boost self-esteem, self-value, and worth if they come from your personal values. In addition, when you affirm yourself you are accessing the reward system in your brain and increasing dopamine, which can also increase pleasure. That feel-good feeling creates motivation and movement or forward-thinking.
So, back to the subject matter of this post - can affirmations and negative thoughts co-exist? Yes, they can. Remember, we're talking about those negative thoughts that are helpful. Here's an example "I am having such a difficult time keeping my house clean, but I've done it before so I can do it again. I may have to do it in increments, but I will get it done. I can do this." See how these co-exist together? This is the world we live in - there is no such thing as 100% positivity all of the time, not if you live in the real world.
To start you on your affirmation journey I've created an Affirmation Sheet for you, simply click the button below, download it and begin to recite these affirmations out loud and as often as possible. I encourage you to create your own. If you can't come up with anything or are having difficulty, think about what you want to believe, and start there, for example, "I want to believe I am enough. I want to believe things will be okay." One thing about affirmations is they have to be believable and relatable. If you were to scale that, you want it to be at least 50% or more out of 100%.
Start affirming yourself today and see what happens. Remember, negative thoughts are helpful and normal; negative beliefs are not. Be sure to check back in to let me know how it's going!