How to Use Affirmations Effectively

You probably heard about affirmations before. You might even have tried doing affirmations as part of a self-development process. But have you being performing them in a way that will bring you the results you want?

You see, to be effective you must fully believe in the affirmation you are performing. And I find that that’s where most people fall short. Repeating a sentence without fully understanding or accepting its content will not change how you feel about something.

So let’s look at a better way of doing it, shall we?

First, what are affirmations?

Affirmation is simply the action or process of stating something with conviction. And you know what? We do it all the time. Just not in the most beneficial way.

For instance, have you ever said something along the lines “oh I’m so stupid”, “I can’t get anything right” or “I’ll never get a good job”?

If so, you have been practising affirmations. Negative ones though.

Every time that you repeat something like this, you are reinforcing a belief.

But what are beliefs? Beliefs are imaginary rules that guide our actions and behaviours. Things such as our rights, duties, abilities and permissions. This set of rules are formed as we grow up and older, through previous experiences and the influence of the environment around us.

The problem is that they can also come as a result of faulty logic, assumptions and fears. And when that happens, we start basing our decisions on a distorted view of the world which can hold us back big time.

The good news is that those rules are not absolute truths. They are just mental constructs created at a certain point in life and can be changed whenever we feel that they are not serving us anymore.

And we can use affirmations to change a pre-existing belief.

When I was a child, I used to get very frustrated when I couldn’t find an answer for my homework. I remember sitting in front of my workbook, crying and repeating “I don’t know.” To which my mum would immediately make me rephrase it “I don’t know but I will learn.” And you know what? It made me shift from a negative belief  (I don’t know) into a positive one (but I will learn). If it wasn’t for this reframe, I would probably still be feeling extremely frustrated whenever I couldn’t figure out something immediately.

So here’s how you can apply this concept.

Step 1. Start with a negative beliefs you want to reframe. E.g. I’m such a failure.

Step 2. Find ways of challenging the thought pattern. E.g. Is this a fact or an assumption? What am I basing this statement on? Is there evidence against it? How can I see this differently?

Step 3. Reframe the thought pattern. E.g. Well, I made a mistake and that happens. I am learning from it and next time I’ll do better.

Step 4. Practice self-awareness and repeat the new pattern. Every time you notice that you are repeating the negative statement, interrupt the pattern and introduce the new affirmation. The more you repeat it, the more you will reinforce it.  

What’s Lifestyle Change

So you want to change your body, to become fit and healthy, to feel comfortable in your own skin so you can finally be free to enjoy life, go after your dreams and fulfil your true potential.

I get it.

It is not as if you haven’t tried before. You certainly did. Some things worked for a while. Others left a bitter taste behind. And now, you might be a little discouraged.

You are not alone. I’ve heard this story multiple times. That’s why I decided to make this video. To show you that there is nothing wrong with you. It is the way you have been approaching that it’s not the best.

Here’s why you haven’t succeed yet and what you need to do to get back on track.

Lessons from a Fitness Challenge

The fitness industry loves Challenges. And at this time of the year, they seem to be everywhere: “40-day build challenge” or “12 weeks to a bikini body.“

I’ve never been very fond of challenges because they tend to reinforce behavioural patterns and beliefs that are not beneficial.

For instance, most challenges are short-lived contributing to the erroneous belief that losing weight (or building muscle) is a fast process. To deliver results in such short period of time, most programs rely on endorsing extreme behaviours that are not realistic (or safe) for the average person. Those behaviours generate an enormous amount of deprivation which could potentially lead to unhealthy compensatory behaviours (binging, purging or over exercising). Besides, most programs don’t expand on how to maintain the results, so once the challenge is over you are on your own.

I’m not saying that challenges don’t work. They do. But only for a very specific type of people:

  • Usually already fit
  • Highly motivated
  • Used to dieting and extreme exercise
  • Hold certain values – health and fitness, appearance – as priority
  • Enjoy being pushed to the limit

People who don’t fit this profile end up feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, discouraged, disappointed, ashamed, and powerless.

At least, that’s what I thought.

Since I don’t like jumping into conclusions, I decided to conduct a little research. I enrolled on a 40-day challenge.

I wanted to understand what drove people into these programs. And if they don’t work for most folks, why were they coming back? Is it some kind mass delusion or is there something I am missing?

So there I went with an open mind in search for answers. Much to my surprise, I was able to find quite a few positives which I am sharing with you now:

  1. Challenges are a group activity that happens inside a community of likeminded people. This  creates a sense of belonging, of being understood, of not being alone which is fundamental for success. People in these communities are supportive and ready to cheer you up when you need it.
  2. The fact that you enrolled in something creates instant accountability. That’s because we tend to tell people around us about the challenge and they will want to know how you are progressing. In my experience, the more people you tell, the better your adherence will be. There is always someone who won’t let you off the hook if you slide.
  3. There is usually a willingness to play at 100%. You’ve made the commitment and you are going to give your best. (Even if it is temporary. In fact, knowing that the effort has a deadline increases ability to use willpower. “I just need to hang in there for a few more weeks.”)
  4. Strong commitment to a program contributes to consistent behaviours. And behaviours consistently repeated over time can turn into life-long habits.
  5. Momentaneous empowerment. Voluntary participation (it doesn’t count if you were forced into a program) on a challenge can shift your beliefs from “this is too hard” to “I can do this.”
  6. Those challenges are full of role models that post their struggles and how they overcame them. This can inspire a change in attitude when facing a roadblock. “What would so and so do?”
  7. Having structure inspire trust (after all, this program was carefully designed by an expert) which eliminates second-guessing (the root of negative self-talk).

The bottom line is that participating on a challenge can be very beneficial if it played right. That’s because these programs can generate loads of positive emotions (empowerment, enthusiasm, positive expectations, optimism and hopefulness) that are necessary to overcome potential roadblocks.

Remember that positive states of mind are more resourceful.

This means being able to use willpower to overcome cravings, looking for solutions rather than excuses, shutting down negative self-talk, prioritising based on your goal, making better choices and so on.

Hold your horses. Before you jump into this bandwagon, be aware that challenges are, as the name say, challenging. If your life is already full of stress, this is probably not the best time to start one.

However, it doesn’t mean that you need to wait for perfect conditions (by the way, there is no such thing as perfect conditions, life is imperfect by default) in order to do something.

What if we could create mini-challenges in our life? I mean, small manageable changes. Would that be helpful?

Bingo! My proposal is engaging in a behaviour-based challenge (rather than a full on all-or-nothing challenge). That means instead of trying to change a million different things at once (which can be overwhelming), we focus on installing one healthy habit at a time (or breaking an undesirable one). For example, a 30-day alcohol-free challenge or a 6-week Zumba challenge.

You will get all the benefits of participating on a challenge, minus the stress and overwhelm of trying to do too many changes at once. In addition, small changes may feel so easy to incorporate in your daily routine that you might be inclined to keep going even when the challenge is over.

How to Stay Committed to Your Goals

You know how people start very excited about a goal just to lose motivation within a few weeks?

This is because it is normal to experience an emotional roller coaster as we pursue a goal. One day, we are super excited and passionate. The other, we may feel overwhelmed and discouraged.

The biggest challenge is to go through the downs without falling off the bandwagon. But how do we do that?

In this video, I share my top tip for staying connected and committed to your goals even during hard times.

How to Avoid the Emotional Roller Coaster

The journey towards any goal is seldom a straight line. More often than not you will face challenges. It’s a normal part of the process.

But the problem is that these challenges may have a direct effect on your mind, creating a turmoil of emotions. Emotions that if not taken care of, tend to escalate to humongous proportions preventing you to reach your goals and dreams.

Let’s take a closer look at the emotional roller coaster that is a fitness journey.

Stage 1 – You have just decided to embark on this journey. Motivation is high as a kite. You can’t see any obstacles so you overestimate your own abilities, creating an ambitious plan that may not be realistic on the long run. But you are excited and you go with it.

Stage 2 – You are two weeks in and still can’t see any visible results. Decide to do some research and get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. You get confused and start to second guessing your original plan. You feel compelled to make adjustments.

Stage 3 – Still no results and life catches up with you. You feel impatient and frustrated. “I am doing so much. I should be seeing some difference by now. Why is it taking so long?”

Stage 4 – Start feeling overwhelmed with everything you set up to do. It feels hard to keep up. Motivation starts to waver.

Stage 5 – Now, you are second guessing everything. “Am I on the right path? Am I capable of doing this? Do I even want it?”

Stage 6 – Negative self-talk starts. Can’t see anything good about this journey. Blame game starts.

Stage 7 – As the internal pressure rises you feel discouraged. You are on the brink of giving up.

Stage 8 – “Can’t take it anymore.” You jump off the band wagon. Experience an initial feeling of relief, followed by guilt, unworthiness and dis-empowerment.

Stage 9 – Go on with your life. Try to justify your decision to quit. Use other things to make you feel better but it is too late. The whole experience left a scar in your self-esteem.

Have you gone through something like that before? Well, you are not alone. It is estimated that 73% of people who starts a fitness program give up before seeing results. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As I mentioned on my previous post (click here if you haven’t read it), to be successful you must learn to deal with negative emotions. Otherwise, you will quit before even starting.

Why is this important? Because we make decisions are based on emotions. The truth is that negative emotions trigger a response from a primitive part of the brain which tends to underestimate resources and overestimate threats. It’s a survival instinct.

But you are not here to survive. You are here to thrive, right?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to control emotions in order to make decisions from a resourceful state, not biased by fear, guilt, insecurity or other negative emotions.

Take willpower, for instance. Willpower is a resource that can only be accessed when you are on a positive state of mind (from joy to contentment). The moment you go down on the emotional scale, you reach an unresourceful state and can’t rely on willpower anymore.

A negative state generates negative self-talk, bringing up limiting beliefs based on past experiences. In those states, the mind start looking for reasons why you can’t succeed. And the more you allow the negative self-talk to grow, the deeper you go into a negative state.

Therefore, learning to manage emotions is fundamental if you want to achieve any goal. Emotional intelligence doesn’t prevent negative emotions to arise but it allows you to recognise when you are getting into  an emotional spiral so you can stop it before it’s too late.

The good news is that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a skill which can be learned and strengthened. You just need to start.

Intrigued?

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