Self-Affirmation: What is it and how does it work?

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Yesterday we talked about the benefits of meditation and how to make it a habit. Today we are going to tackle another large happiness habit: self-affirmation.

What Is Self-Affirmation?

According to Psychology Today, “it refers to behavioral or cognitive events that sustain, support and strengthen the perceived integrity of the self.” The article goes on to say that self-affirming events include receiving positive feedback from others, reflecting on positive aspects of self, and expressing core values.

I know that might sound pretty complicated so I am going to try to break things down so they are a bit easier to understand. Positive affirmations are basically self-comforting or self-praising statements used to help preserve self-worth.

Why Is It Beneficial?

A research study from the University of Pennsylvania says there are three main reasons why self-affirmation is beneficial.  First, it is enjoyable to think about the things we value. Second, when are feeling threatened, it reminds us of the things we value in ourselves. Third, self-affirmation “broadens the basis of our self-worth.”

Self-affirmation has powerful effects such as minimizing anxiety, stress, and defensiveness. All while keeping us open to the idea that there is room for self-improvement.

What You Shouldn’t Do

While there are positive benefits from self-affirmation, some people have had negative side effects from the practice. To avoid having a negative experience there is one thing you shouldn’t do. Do not use a self-affirmation that you don’t believe. Doing so can actually make you feel worse about yourself.

What You Should Do Instead

Use your list of things you like about yourself as your sources of self-affirmation. Why? Because these are things you already believe to be true about yourself.

Should you feel self-doubt or an attack on yourself, think of your list. It should help you realize there is more to you than whatever shortcoming you are focusing on.

Self-Affirmation Isn’t For Everyone

Because self-affirmation can be a negative experience not everyone should try to use it. Those that suffer from extreme depression or have severe self-confidence issues should look to improving their self-perception first.

**Depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem are serious issues. If you are experiencing more than the occasional bad day, please contact a counselor or health care professional.**


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