Positive Effect of Affirmations

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During my first day of the challenge I tried to figure out what are affirmations? Throughout the day, I tried not to dwell on the negatives of situations and practiced positive self-talk. Anything I said to myself in the mirror, out loud, or in my head needed to encourage my greatness and to overcome challenges I faced throughout the day. I printed out ‘positive’ quotes. These short phrases consumed my sight. I put them on my mirrors, windows, walls, and tables. I even managed to laminate one to put in the shower. I found myself trying to memorize these short phrases. But, I couldn’t help but feel fake and inauthentic doing this. Repeating positive affirmations to myself in the mirror just resulted in a fit of laughter, I could not keep a straight face because I felt like affirmations sounded a bit too emotional for me. At one point the words even seemed fake to me, as if they were not real words at all. This phenomenon is referred to as semantic satiation in psychology. The repetition of themes and mantras have become mute to my ear. The verbal repetition reduces a certain sensitivity in my neurons. My reaction to cliche phrases might be a simple eye roll, but inside my head, there are a complex peripheral sensorimotor reactive inhibitions. With each repetition, words were still just a long sound. No meaning at all. I decided to approach day two with a different hypothesis. I figured, as humans, we are great liars. We are good at detecting deception in ourselves. We may be unaware that we are lying to ourselves, but the subconscious can recognize it. This could be what was sabotaging the effectiveness of my affirmations. Instead, I tried not to say anything negative for a day about my appearance, my habits, even down to the humiliation I felt raising my hand in class.

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Consequently, setting these rules up only prophesied my failure. As I got ready in the morning, I looked at myself and couldn’t resist saying “You look horrible”. I found that the problem with negative affirmations is that sometimes they are just not true. And in cases where they are true, they are just not helpful. Telling myself this did not solve my problem, but, rather, entrenched my negativity towards myself all day. I did not dwell on this failure for long, I re tested my hypothesis again for day 3, 4 and 5. I found that suppressing negatives thoughts is challenging because a blocked thought tends to rebound – in other words, it can come back later with a vengeance once you’ve let your guard down. I learned that this comes from the ironic monitoring theory. As I try and suppress these thoughts, my mind is going through many pathways, searching behind any doors to find these thoughts and shut them down. This is the ironic effect, as I am trying to shut them down, I am making it harder for myself because these thoughts become more accessible. This part of the challenge took me 3 days to realize that in order to truly let go, I needed to not give my negativity the importance of letting go. It is not about blocking out the thoughts, but moving on from them. Day 6, was Jummah (which is friday service for Muslims) and also the day I realized my faith brings out my well-being. After 3 days of cleansing and accepting, feeling close to God increased my happiness, and I continued the rest of the week focussing on regularly devoting some time to sit and reflect and in my own way getting closer to God. I felt an inner peace and felt like I was on the right track the first time all week. But, I also realized that though I felt more positive and less stressed.

Finally, I entered day 7 with the utmost confidence. I walked into my Neurobiology Lecture and to my surprise that day we would learn about neuroplasticity and the fascination with the mythical full-formed static brain. It only took a 50 minute lecture for my professor to solve the problem with my experiment. The phenomena of ‘plasticity’ is describing the neural changes that takes place when the brain is physically changing. I think the reason why me and a many others are so fascinated by this, is because, growing up the brain was thought to be completely formed by the time we reached adolescence. But, today, on a scientific level, minute to minute changes are occuring between neurons. Ant these neuronal connection are the primary mechanism for learning and memory. As for memories, I have created some complex connection in my brain over time. Years of self-hatred, or misjudgements about those around me had embedded itself so deep into my mind, it would be unthinkable to suggest one week of positivity could reverse it. I assumed that by the end of the challenge I would feel happier.

Temporarily, I felt satisfied. But, long term, I knew my happiness was not guaranteed. I think complimenting myself in the mirror for a week is not going to solve all of my problems. But, the experiment did help me see the pleasure, engagement, and meaning in moments like prayer. Moments that gave me more reason to reduce my anxiety and anger. I think over time I have become set in my way, I have repetitive thought negatively, strengthening the connection between neurons in my brains. Now when I think about what my response should be to certain situations, my brain defaults to these well connected negative pathways and I get stuck. I still think it is possible for me to have a full metamorphosis by being positive and affirming myself often. I would like to try this challenge again. But, give it a remix and instead of ‘positive affirmations’ I was to ‘relieve the negatives’ in my life.

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Positive effect of affirmations. (2021, Oct 15). Retrieved January 29, 2023 , from

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