Rewire Your Brain: The Science Behind Affirmations
You’ve heard about “affirmations” since the dawn of the Stuart Smalley. They’re those “I statements” that go something like this: I am grateful. I am lovable. I am open. Proponents of affirmations say—without reservation—that they work, releasing you from years of pent-up fear, pain, and shame. But is there any real science to back this up? The answer is unequivocally: yes.
Evidence-based research shows that affirmations, like prayer, actually change the brain on a cellular level—in other words, what you think about matters—a lot. “Thoughts have a direct connection to your health,” says Dr. Joseph Dispenza, author of Physics, the Brain and Your Reality:
“Thoughts make a chemical. If you have happy thoughts, then you’re producing chemicals that make you feel happy. Negative, angry thoughts and fearful thoughts also produce chemicals to make you feel how you’re thinking.”
“Some people have connected love to disappointment; so when they think about love, they instantly experience the memory of pain, sorrow, anger—even rage. Rage may be linked to hurt, which may be linked to a specific person, which then is connected back to love.”
In other words: brain cells that “fire together, wire together” And the more you feel a certain way, the more these nerve cells develop a long-term relationship.
HOW AFFIRMATIONS CHANGE YOUR BRAIN
Affirmations interrupt your maladaptive neuro-nets. And the more you use affirmations, the more those nerve cells that are connected to each other (i.e., firing together), start breaking the long-term relationship with your negative thoughts, literally re-wiring to your new, affirming beliefs. Science calls this neuroplasticity. So that’s the science. And there’s plenty more to back up these claims. So what are some ways to get affirmations into your everyday life?
7 PRACTICAL WAYS TO GET STARTED
- On your car’s rear view mirror, write an affirmation with a dry erase pen. You will see it constantly while driving. You will also see your eyes reflecting in the rear view mirror, and you can say the affirmation aloud or to yourself while looking at yourself — a very powerful technique.
- Write a different affirmation on your bathroom mirror using a bar of soap or dry erase marker.
- Record a voice memo with your iPhone, containing your list of affirmations. Say them slowly, repeating each affirmation twice. You can listen to this recording of your own voice while jogging, working out, or at work. As you listen, repeat the affirmation out loud the second time.
- Create a repeating calendar event (at a random time each day) with your affirmation. It will pop up on your computer or iPhone and break up your day.
- Place a Post-It note on the door of your home, which you will see, right before you leave.
- Using GarageBand or other music mixing software, create a version of your workout “power song” with the affirmations filling in the space between the lyrics. Use this in the gym or wherever.
- Make a rotating, self-changing desktop pattern for your computer at home or work. Each day (or hour, or whatever) you’ll see a different affirmation.
The important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Here are some examples of good “starter” affirmations.
CLIFF’S NOTES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW RIGHT NOW (plus a video)
You can sculpt your brain the same way you sculpt your muscles in the gym. Scientific evidence shows that your thoughts produce emotions and feelings. Your feelings trigger chemicals in your brain that cause physiological responses in your body: stress, relaxation, exhaustion—whatever. Like prayer and meditation, affirmations allow you to take control, harnessing your thoughts, making them work for you, not against you — allowing you to”re-wire” your brain and end your loop of misery.
VIDEO: ANTHONY ROBBINS’ RACE CAR METAPHOR
Every moment of your life, you’re making three key decisions:
- What are you thinking about?
- What do those thoughts mean?
- What are you going to do about it?
“To change your life,” Robbins says, “You’ve got to change what you focus on, change what it means to you, and change what you’re doing about it.”
I’ll be making these changes and experimenting with these affirmations right along with you, so please share your thoughts in the comments below.