I Wrote Affirmations Every Morning for 90 Days and Here’s What I Learned
We’ve all heard that daily affirmations will change your life. They’re supposed to help you beat the negative self-talk, reroute neural pathways, and maintain consistency.
This article in PositivePsychology goes in-depth into the science behind positive affirmations and why they work scientifically. According to the article, affirmations help us with our “global narrative about ourselves”, maintaining a flexible self-identity, and aligning our actions with our desires so that we build authentic praise. Basically, positive affirmations help us have better thoughts about ourselves, be open to change, and seek things we truly value.
An interesting finding from studies about the benefits of positive affirmations is that it helps us respond less defensively when presented with a threatening situation. In short, it makes us more resilient.
I like this because one of the affirmations I clung to was “I am a good mother”. I had a tendency to react negatively whenever someone offered me advice on how to care for my first child, whether they were a trusted source or not. I often found myself thinking, “If you know everything, then why don’t you parent my child?” I was assuming they were implying that I didn’t know anything. Wild leap, right? But when your brain has been living in survival mode for so long, everything seems threatening, even someone trying to be helpful with good intentions.
What I noticed while practicing my daily affirmations is that they would pop up in my head throughout the day. Almost like my brain would set reminders. Someone would offer me parenting advice and instead of immediately getting defensive, I would hear my mind whisper, “You’re a good mother”. It was reassuring and offered me the opportunity to pause and reflect on the intention of the speaker.
I’m not saying it’s magic. I’m saying it’s like wearing down a path in a forest. The forest can seem really dark and scary — like in Snow White when all the tree branches are reaching for her and tearing at her dress when she’s running from the huntsman — but the positive affirmations you’re writing and saying to yourself every day wear a new path in your brain. You can follow that worn path when situations become threatening. It’s like building yourself a new way out.
With that in mind, here’s what I learned while practicing positive affirmations every morning for 90 days.
It takes longer than 21 days to create a habit.
This is a saying that a lot of people regurgitate. I get it, it’s catchy and easy to remember. And it also feels attainable. If I can just repeat a new habit for 21 days, I’m set! I’ve effectively changed myself and I don’t have to put in any more effort.
Man, I wish this was true. But I found that I had to push myself to remember my positive affirmations long after 21 days were up. For me, it took a good 60 days to really make writing and saying my positive affirmations a knee-jerk habit. It might take you only 30. Everyone is different.
Just keep this in mind when starting a new habit of any kind. 21 days is a good starting goal, a good preliminary finish line. But your “finish line” — whatever you define that as — will more than likely be longer than you think. Lean into it and keep working for what you value.
The affirmations took a long time to sink in.
Speaking of finish lines — it took me a long time to believe my affirmations, which was my personal finish line.
I wanted my positive affirmations to change the way I perceived myself. I desperately desired a way out of the forest. Maybe that’s why my finish line was a lot longer than 21 days. For me, it took me about 90 days to start feeling the belief of my positive affirmations sink into my brain and start changing my behavior and reactions to situations.
For instance, one of my affirmations is “I am CEO of my own business”. I spent a lot of time writing and saying this to myself but I had to figure out what it meant for my daily life. So where did this phrase pop up in my mind throughout the day? That was my gauge for practical ways that this affirmation could be turned into action.
I noticed that when I was trying to decide between watching Netflix or working on my next article, that’s when the phrase would pop up in my mind. So I started asking myself why? (Sidenote: I think this is why positive affirmations are so powerful. They make you question everything and really chew on what they mean. This is the wearing of the pathway out of the forest.) I asked myself what it meant to be a CEO. To me, that meant that I was the enactor of change in my business. I am the decision maker. If I don’t work on something, it won’t get done. Once I established that “out loud” for myself, it became a lot easier to choose to be the CEO of my own business. That looks like sitting down to write this article instead of watching Netflix.
It’s as simple as that. But this “simple” process took dedicated self-exploration and being open to redefining things about myself. For me, that process took about 90 days.
Typing them out isn’t enough. You have to say them.
This felt silly at first. But this advice came to me in the form of a prompt from a mentor in a course I was taking. She told me to record my affirmations and listen to them every morning as part of my morning routine.
I’ll be honest, I don’t have a morning routine. I have a 4-month-old baby that requires my attention at 6am and I don’t desire to be part of the 5am club right now. So I don’t have a solid morning routine that’s full of self-care.
That aside, I also avoided this particular step of my course for a looong time. I used to hate the way my voice sounded over a recording. I thought the cringe of hearing my own voice would rob me of the supposed benefits of hearing me say my affirmations to myself. When I eventually caved and did it anyways — desperate for the path out of the forest — I still cringed at the sound of my voice.
I think after a week, I got used to it and by week two I started enjoying hearing me talk to myself. I started to appreciate the smoky quality and sincerity in my voice. After that, it felt like sitting down to have coffee with a dear friend. I let the words wash over me like music. They warmed my soul and gave me an encouraging boost.
I’m not saying everyone will have the same experience. But there is power in the spoken word. If you don’t want to record yourself saying your affirmations, I would encourage you to say them to yourself in front of a mirror. Or just whisper them to yourself on your lunch break. In the car on the way to work. Let the spoken word sink into you however you choose. But say it out loud. It won’t be cringey forever.
I really enjoy not breaking the chain.
Wow, this was a powerful revelation about myself. I grew up having the belief that I never finish anything. I was a great starter of projects, but carrying them through? That wasn’t who I was. I even spent a season of my life praying and asking my friends to pray that I would be more consistent in all areas of my life.
I use an app called Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change for my affirmations. (Not sponsored) As I saw the number growing day after day, it motivated me even more to keep up with my affirmations.
Now, someone tell me why this doesn’t work with Duolingo, and I’ll be all set.
Reaching this goal with my daily affirmations allowed me to see that I find satisfaction in being consistent. It also showed me that it’s not just consistency that leads to success. It’s the accumulation that makes consistency so powerful.
It’s like compound interest. You can place $10,000 in an investment account and it’ll accrue interest. Sure. But imagine if you kept investing in that account throughout the years. Your return would be so much higher in the end. So it’s not just the consistency but the accumulation of consistency that truly leads to success.
I Thought Consistency Was The Finish Line
I also learned that consistency can’t be a finish line. Consistency is the way you pave your escape from the woods. But if your only goal is to get through one part of the forest, what happens when you reach the next forest? Because I guarantee you, there will be one.
Life doesn’t stop. In turn, if my consistency stops, I don’t necessarily lose all progress, but I don’t progress more. And that’s something I can’t afford right now.
It sounds twisty but it’s not like I’m working myself to death. You can read in an upcoming article about how I improve my life by 1% every day. It’s not overwhelming. But I’m like a shark. If I stop swimming, I’ll die. Not breaking the chain helped me see the value in consistency but also how consistency ultimately cannot be my finish line. It’s what gets me to my finish line and beyond.
Overall, practicing positive affirmations is as great as everyone says it is. But it’s not an instant gratification type of practice. You have to stick with it and let it seep into you for a period of time in order for it to work. I wish someone had explained that to me before I started, so that’s what I’ll leave you with.
Have you practiced positive affirmations before? Share in the comments below! I’d love to hear about the things you learned.