How To Use Positive Affirmations Effectively

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woman thinking of positive affirmations

If everyone who used positive affirmations got what they wanted, we'd all have happiness, the loves of our lives, success, great health, wealth, fulfilling relationships, and peace of mind… but we don't.

That's largely because most people who use this process for creating a better life are missing the critical piece of the affirmation puzzle.

There are numerous reasons why you may not have achieved lasting change from using positive affirmations. With a few minor tweaks, you can make it happen!

How to Use Positive Affirmations Effectively

1. Determine what you want to adjust or replace.

Positive affirmations address something in our lives we want to adjust or replace with something better. We could decide to adopt better self care routines, or replace an unhealthy daily habit like smoking tobacco or vaping with a healthy daily habit of drinking water regularly.

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2. Get specific about how many, how much, or when.

Another reason positive affirmations don't work is the wrong words are used. This can actually do more damage than if you didn't use affirmations at all because when you use the wrong words, you reinforce what you don't want, which makes it bigger and stronger and thus more challenging to change.

For example: Bonnie is sick all the time and feels bad about herself. She wants to make a positive change to feel healthier. She might be using an incorrect affirmation like: "I won't eat junk food every meal and I won't feel sick anymore." What is the focus? Junk food elimination and illness — both things she doesn't want.

You cannot have lasting change if you're focused on what you don't want to have — those don't wants will multiply: more negatives, more stress issues and more sickness.

This is another reason many people feel good for a few minutes after using affirmations but much worse after the initial high fades. They are making themselves worse off than without any affirmations.

Opposite results aren't really good incentives for continuing the practice. We have to include the positive emotional element, and now you see why it can be dangerous to use affirmations incorrectly.

3. Speak in positive terms of what you do want.

The reason you feel better when verbalizing positive thoughts is because the positivity of good thoughts, memories, and ideas in your mind enhances your psychological well-being and causes chemical changes in our body that tell us we're happy. (Like smiling during your morning shower when you get up in a crabby mood. You truly begin to feel happier because your body is programmed to feel good when you smile).

4. Keep your affirmations in the present tense, as if they are happening now.

Notice also that Bonnie's words are in present tense, not the future or some promise like "I can," or "I will." The future never comes. As Bonnie begins feeling better daily, she can update her affirmation to be bigger, though still believable, and feel even better.

Although I'm a fan of big intentions, experience has shown that if they are too big to start with, they are unattainable and set us up for failure.

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5. Feel the positive emotion you are seeking.

There is a missing piece to most instructions for affirmations. Without this piece to the puzzle, most people who use them for lasting change wind up feeling frustrated that they failed. If you are one of the millions of people who have used this process without the results you were looking for, you're not alone.

The missing piece? Emotion. Emotion (feelings) is the most powerful energy for creation — both positive and negative for things you want and things you don't want. You can speak verbal affirmations until you're blue in the face, but if you're unable to feel what it's like to have what you want, you won't get it. You may be asking, "How will I know how it feels if I don't have it yet?" Great question! Use your imagination.

You can tap into the positive feeling either by recalling a past experience or by borrowing feelings from a different situation.

The subconscious mind doesn't know the difference between what is real and what is imagined.

This is why people can tell us we're awful when we know we rock; if they tell us often enough, we will start to doubt ourselves and believe them (great reason to delete negative people from your life).

6. Hold the feeling for at least 17 seconds while repeating your affirmation out loud.

If you've been fortunate enough to have gotten what you want (great relationship, your ideal job, etc.), you can recall the feeling as vividly as possible while you speak your positive affirmation aloud. If you haven't yet experienced the thing you want, recall a time when you felt happy, excited, or fulfilled. Hold onto this memory as you speak you affirmation aloud several times. Just 17 seconds begins physical manifestation from your energy. It's okay for the feeling to be borrowed from a different situation because it's the high-frequency vibration of positive emotion we're after here.

7. Be aware that this takes practice. Go easy on yourself while being consistent.

Remember, while your words and thought are very powerful, your feelings contain the most power. There are emotion connected to your words and thoughts, so it's important to use the correct words when we speak to or about ourselves and others.

Bonnie should focus on what she does want, within reason. I say "within reason" because if her words are great but her underlying thought (with emotions attached) is, "Yeah, right. I have poor self care habits and feel lousy," the affirmation is out of alignment with where she is right now.

A better one would be something like, "I feel stronger and healthier today," because most anyone can picture feeling stronger and healthier even if they feel weak at the time.

As she uses her positive affirmation, she feels what it's like (either from past experience or using her imagination) to feel stronger and healthier, and she holds that feeling while speaking the affirmation for at least 17 seconds at a time — manifestation (creation of it in her life) begins at 17 seconds.

Give yourself time to practice holding the feeling because at first it might only be possible for 3 or 5 seconds. Practice, practice, practice.

As we practice positive affirmations and begin to see lasting change, we can make some bigger jumps in the next ones because we've reprogrammed ourselves to feel successful in reaching for and achieving. It's like goal setting: you can set them all you want, but it's goal-achieving you're really after, isn't it?

Therefore, it makes sense to start slowly and gain momentum with success, rather than to fail miserably because you set your intentions too high or made your affirmations too big.

Remember you are practicing, rather than trying. Try implies doubt while practice makes you better.

Please feel free to share an affirmation in the comments area. It might really spark someone else to use it or come up with their own... and will allow us to cheer you on!

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Kelly Rudolph is a Certified Life Coach and Hypnotherapist who helps her clients manage stress and experience personal growth through greater confidence.