How to Make Affirmations Work for You by Renee Emery

People often think of affirmations as just hippie dippy craziness left over from the 70s. The mere thought of repeating positive self-affirming mantras can conjure up visions of gurus in colorful flowy clothing doing nearly impossible yoga poses as the smell of patchouli permeates the air.

I’ll admit, I used to be one of those people who thought affirmations were a bunch of crap. My first experience with them was in my twenties. I was just out of grad school working a low-paying temp job. I had no car, very little money and I was weeks away from being homeless. I was in student loan debt up to my, er…eyeballs. The job market was down and my prospects were slim at best. I found myself slipping into a slow and steady depression as I tried to make my way as an adult in a strange new city, where I only knew two people. I was terrified of having to go back to my small hometown, move in with my mom and admit I was a failure.

That’s when, Kathy, a co-worker at my temp job, told me about affirmations and how they would help turn my life around in less than a week. I thought it sounded too good to be true, but at that point, I would try anything—so I did. We wrote down some affirmations and I got up early every day for a week and recited them while looking at myself in the bathroom mirror. A few days passed and no change. Then a week, still nothing. I was ready to give up, but Kathy insisted that I keep at it, so I did. A month later and the only change was, I was more stressed and depressed than ever. Things were bad and I was frustrated, so I decided to stop with the affirmations.

Over time, things did get better. I got a real job, a car, and health insurance. My life improved, but I was done with affirmations because they clearly didn’t work. Like so many others, I spent the next years of my life having inconsistent highs and lows. Being moderately successful here and struggling there. I was living on a wing and a prayer. Savoring the good times, but always fearful and bracing for the bad times.

After a while, I hit a major slump that I couldn’t seem to get out of no matter how hard I tried. I was a single mom in another unfamiliar city with no friends or family, working at a 9 to 5 in a stressful and toxic environment, while also trying to manage a major health crisis. On the upside, I had a cute new bundle of joy and steady income, but everything else sucked!

I knew there had to be more to life, but I didn’t have a clue how to get it. I desperately wanted to get out of my rut and “live my best life,” but how? That’s when one of my mentors suggested I try positive affirmations. I shared my previous experience with her, and let her know emphatically that I wasn’t willing to waste my time on that foolishness again.  Then she sat me down and explained in detail exactly why I should give affirmations another try. I’m going to share with you what she told me.

What are affirmations and how do they work?

According to the New Thought and New Age movements, affirmations are the practice of positive thinking and self-empowerment through carefully formatted statements that are spoken or written.  

Research shows affirmations can strengthen nerve connections in the brain and activate its reward center. The reward center responds positively to pleasurable experiences, like winning a race or eating chocolate. In other words, positive affirmations make you feel good. And isn’t that what we are all striving for, to feel good?

When done correctly, affirmations can affect both the conscious and subconscious levels of your brain. Your subconscious believes your words and thoughts are real, and views them as your current reality, whether positive or negative.

Why affirmations sometimes don’t work.

Affirmations can be very helpful and a great tool to change your mindset and your circumstances. Like me, many others have tried and failed with affirmations and there are some good reasons why they sometimes don’t work.

Focusing on the wrong thing. One of my favorite quotes is: “Energy flows where attention goes.”  It means whatever you spend the most time thinking about, whether consciously or unconsciously, is what becomes your reality. For example, let’s say you’re ready to ditch your 9 to 5 to become a solopreneur. Your current job and everything about it irritates you to no end – your manager and co-workers, the commute, pay, hours, everything…. But, instead of focusing on the actual outcome you want: freedom, flexibility being able to call the shots, you focus only on your job and why you hate it.  Your complaints turn into a mantra or affirmation and you constantly recreate a reality you don’t want.

Too many details. They say, “the devil is in the details” and in most cases that’s true, but when it comes to affirmations you have to be open to the Universe sending your blessings in ways you may not expect. My friend Karen was trying to manifest a happier life, so she wrote out a long list of extremely detailed affirmations. Karen wanted a certain lifestyle complete with a high-level job, huge salary, fancy car and clothes, the perfect man, perfect friends, and a perfect little dog. When she wrote her affirmations she even went so far as to include how she wanted to obtain all these things. She was very particular about how things should manifest, and she created a list of rules and requirements for the Universe to follow. Needless to say, it didn’t work.  Karen simply refused to allow the Universe to do its job.

Not being a believer. They also say, “seeing is believing,” but when it comes to affirmations, it’s the other way around. If you want your affirmations to work you have to believe what you’re saying first before you begin to see evidence of it. If you feel like you’re just going through the motions or lying to yourself when you say or write the words, you won’t be able to trick your brain into believing what you’re saying is true.

How to make affirmations work for you!

So now that you know what will definitely keep your affirmations from working, I want to leave you with some tips on how they help you manifest what you want.

1.     Write affirmations in the present tense and use an “I am” statement to start them. Remember to focus on what you want, not what you don’t. Include details, but stay open. Don’t get caught up on how things “should” manifest. Make sure your affirmations are based in reality so they are believable. For example:

·    I am grateful for my new cabin in the mountains by a lake.

·    I am healthy, whole and happy.

·    I am worthy of goodness and love.

2.     If an “I am” statement isn’t believable to you yet, use “I will” or “I want to believe I am/will/can.” It’s important to start where you are and work on shifting your mindset to get to the place you want to be.  The more you do the affirmations, the more your mindset will shift. As you notice shifts in your mindset, adjust the words to match your vibration and your beliefs.

3.     Say your affirmations aloud or in your head. You can also write them down. Whatever method works best for you is what you go with. I use a combination of all of the above. Whatever method you choose, be consistent and do it several times a day until you manifest what you want.

4.     Be open and stay aware of what’s happening around you. What you want may come to you in a different form than what you expect and if you’re not careful, you could miss it.

5.     Most importantly, create a plan and take inspired action to support what you are affirming. Remember, the only way to get results is to take action. Use your intuition and work with your Higher Power to figure out the best actions to take for your situation.

You can find books or articles with lots of affirmations for you to choose from. Better yet, create your own, so they are in your unique voice and they will feel real and attainable. Be sure to say or write them with conviction and let go of any attachment related to them. Don’t worry about the how or the when. Trust the Universe and watch your life change!  

Get to Know Our Author

Renée Emery is a Transformational Coach and Life Strategist

Renée helps her clients reconnect to their passion and purpose to align their personal, professional and spiritual lives so they can live out their greatest potential. Renée uses a multi-pronged approach to motivate and support her clients; helping them shift their mindset, realize their vision, set goals and take inspired action.


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