By Nicole D. Batey
Special to the AFRO
Black people are constantly berated by negative images and storylines in media that are oftentimes perpetuated within our own families and communities. Positive affirmations can help more of us counter the negative imagery or statements we see and hear for our well-being.
According to Positivepsychology.com, positive affirmations are positive phrases or statements used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. When done frequently enough, these positive mental repetitions can shift our thinking patterns, which in turn, can affect our actions for the better.
Tchiki Davis, Ph.D, of Psychology Today writes, “Researchers suggest that deliberate thought processes, like self-affirmations, can be made automatic over time (Paulhus & Coue, 1993). We also know from neuroplasticity studies that the human brain can change and grow, even into adulthood (Demarin & Morovic, 2014). More specific to affirmations, the more we repeat these positive statements and the more we have these positive thoughts, the easier it can be to have these thoughts again in the future. Research suggests that affirmations can help us maintain our self-esteem in the context of threat (Critcher, Dunning, & Armor, 2010)…When we put this research together, the evidence is compelling that affirmations can be good for well-being.”
“Positive affirmations are more than just wishful thinking,” asserted certified life coach, ordained minister, and President of DP Love Enterprises Pam Love Manning, Ph.D, M.S.W., M.B.A. “You have to really look at a person’s level of belief in what they’re saying. Wishful thinking is more about hoping for an outcome, as opposed to affirmations, where you are trying to reinforce and affirm certain beliefs. So for instance reinforcing that ‘I am an overcomer.’ I might be in the midst of a trial, but I’m going to keep repeating this affirmation to get it in my mind and spirit. The scripture says, ‘Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word.’ It’s something about hearing words repeatedly, they get into our spirits over time.”
Positive affirmations can help keep you in a more positive frame of mind, to help overcome self-sabotaging behaviors or negative thoughts; especially, if you’re in a negative environment or have negative things going on around you. Affirmations are very powerful in helping to reinforce beliefs and behaviors that you desire, want to maintain, or future outcomes you want to see.
“Think about all the negativity we face on a regular basis, from the news, social media posts, or in conversation with people,” said Dr. Manning. “People who have faced trauma or were told negative things from an early age, these things can affect us even if we’re no longer physically hearing them, they have been etched in our minds. Take for instance hearing at a young age, ‘You’re not good enough.’ As an adult, you might not hear it anymore, but when faced with opportunities you shrink or decide you’re not going to or can’t do it. Sometimes it take affirming yourself saying or hearing, ‘Yes, I can do it,’ repeatedly. Now it doesn’t mean that you won’t still feel fear in the process—you might—but you just keep affirming, ‘I can do this, I can do this,’ and take that opportunity. Once you’ve done it, you can say, ‘I did it!’ This helps build your confidence.”
To begin effectively using positive affirmations, Dr. Manning suggests the following:
- First, identify what it is that you want to affirm or what negative thoughts you want to counter.
- Write your statement(s) of affirmation or you can ask other people to assist you with writing your affirmations.
- Record yourself using voice memo on your phone saying the affirmations and replay them back in your hearing.
- Be realistic about your affirmations. This is not name it and claim it, affirmations don’t make events or situations just happen. It’s speaking more to how you think, how you see yourself. ‘I am confident; I am loved; I am that all God says I am; I am fearless; I am courageous.’ It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re already there, you may be in which you are simply reinforcing what you already believe. However, if you’re not, then you’re affirming what will be in the future.
- If you’re not comfortable with writing your own, there are lots of affirmations that have already been created on the internet, especially YouTube. You can repeat them, however it’s more important to listen to the affirmations and get them in your hearing. Make sure though that if you’re going to use video affirmations from the internet, that you listen to them in their entirety first to make sure they align with what you believe, especially if you’re listening to them before you go to sleep.
- Play the affirmations at different points in your day—-while you’re driving, walking, during a break at work, at home, etc.
- You can use affirmations for healing, self-esteem, love, peace, combatting fear or insecurity, etc.
- If you’re a Christian, you can speak affirmations based on the Word of God, using scriptures from the Bible. For example, ‘I am the head and not the tail; I am more than a conqueror.’ “I believe it’s important to be careful about what you are affirming and give it back to God.”
- We want to be careful in what we say because we can affirm things in the positive or in the negative. Subconsciously, your mind begins to track or cause you to move in that direction. It’s possible to reinforce negative behaviors or thoughts.
Still a little skeptical about the power of positive affirmations? Think of how effective commercials are. Studies have shown that over a period of time, if a person hears a commercial repeatedly enough—even if you don’t like the product—whenever you hear part of that jingle, you will automatically think of that product or company because it’s been reinforced in your hearing. That’s why so many companies pay big money to have their ads run frequently.
Affirmations really help to program your thinking and shore up your beliefs. They can help you shift your thought process and overcome negative thoughts.
Dr. Manning says, “For the person who constantly hears in their thoughts of negativity, ‘You’ll never be good enough, you’ll never be good enough’ you can begin to affirm yourself with ‘I am enough,’ to counter that negative thought and plant new seeds of positivity. That’s powerful!”
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