Episode 98: THE POWER OF AFFIRMATIONS – Flourishing Friday
In this episode Emiliya addresses a question submitted by one of our Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) students about how affirmations work. Affirmations are positive statements that individuals repeat to themselves to rewire their thought patterns and beliefs and that ultimately lead to behavior change.
Listen to this episode as Emiliya tackles how affirmations work and the role of attention bias in their effectiveness.
The Power of Affirmations: Attention Bias, Cognitive Dissonance, and the Reticular Activation System
The question of our Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP) program was whether the reason affirmations work is because they train our minds to focus on specific thoughts, beliefs, or goals, thereby activating the attention bias.
This is such an excellent question, so let’s get started!
What Affirmations Are
First, let’s briefly review what affirmations are. Affirmations are positive statements that we repeat in our minds to help us identify thought patterns and beliefs and rewire them to support behavioral change.
Now, let’s discuss the various ways affirmations can impact behavior change:
- Attention Bias: Yes, attention bias is one of the explanations for how affirmations work. By repeating affirmations, we train our minds to focus on specific thoughts, beliefs, or goals, which can make us more aware of opportunities and resources that support those goals, promoting goal-directed behavior.
- Cognitive Dissonance: When we repeat affirmations that are not in line with our current beliefs, we may experience cognitive dissonance, which is the mental discomfort experienced when our beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors conflict with one another. To resolve this discomfort, we are more likely to change our beliefs and behaviors to align with the affirmation.
- Self-Perception Theory: Repeating affirmations activates neuroplasticity, which helps to form our self-perceptions. This makes us more likely to perform behaviors that align with the affirmation because it affirms what we believe about ourselves.
- Selective Attention and the Reticular Activation System (RAS): The RAS, located deep within the brainstem, is a network of neurons that regulates attention and consciousness. When we repeat affirmations, we are essentially training our minds to focus on specific thoughts, beliefs, or goals related to that affirmation. The RAS then filters out information that isn’t as relevant to that goal, helping us stay focused and goal-directed.
- Other factors that contribute to the effectiveness of affirmations include neuroplasticity, self-efficacy, and goal-setting.
Other Factors That Affect Affirmations
Now that we’ve covered the various ways affirmations can impact behavior change, let’s return to our student’s question. Yes, attention bias is one reason why affirmations work, but there are other mechanisms at play, such as cognitive dissonance, self-perception theory, and the Reticular Activation System.
By understanding these different factors and how they contribute to the effectiveness of affirmations, we can leverage this knowledge to gain greater mastery over being human and achieve our goals.
Thank you for joining us for this episode of The Flourishing Center podcast. We hope you found this discussion insightful and thought-provoking. If you have any questions or topics you’d like us to cover in future episodes, please feel free to reach out. Until next time, keep flourishing!
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