Affirmations: How to Hack Your Brain with Positive Thinking

Written By Raquel Nixon, Contributing Writer


You have probably heard of the term “affirmations.” Especially as we are on the cusp of a new year, many healers and helpers are encouraging us to create intentions, affirmations, and mantras for the new year. But what exactly are affirmations? The idea of affirmations is based on the psychological self-affirmation theory introduced by Claude Steele in the 1980s. The theory itself focuses on how a person reacts to threats to their self-concept or their identity.

Affirming our beliefs to ourselves in positive ways can not only create a better sense of our personal self-concept, but can also reinforce this personal knowledge to protect ourselves against any outer attacks on our identity ( If you think about it, It’s easy to affirm your friends with a “you’re amazing,” or “you’re so smart,” or “you’re so funny.” But how often do we affirm ourselves?

How do we do this? Overall, there is no standard method of practicing affirmations. That’s the beauty of it. Some people will look at themselves in the mirror and say their affirmations out loud. Others will write them down in a journal. You could say them quietly to yourself. Or you could make art out of it. It’s up to you.

The important thing is that you practice them regularly and act on them. The more regular and consistent your affirmations, the longer their changes will last in your life ( There are countless places online to find lists and ideas for affirmations. They may be about your personality, your strengths, your talents, your work, school, or your relationships.  It’s all there at the tip of your finger!  If you need a place to start. Start with yourself! What is your favorite thing about yourself? It could be a feature, a skill, a quirk, the possibilities are limitless.

Now, how do they work? There are various empirical studies that have been conducted around affirmations, especially in social psychology. And the incredible thing is that these studies show that affirmations can rewire our brains ( By constantly affirming to ourselves, our identity, our beliefs, our truth, we can rewire our brains to take on different perspectives.

Positive affirmations can work into our brain a more positive mindset and concrete understanding of our self-concept. As Dr. Carmen Harra puts it, “Affirmations help purify our thoughts and restructure the dynamics of our brains so that we truly begin to think nothing is impossible” (

At the center of the practice of affirmations is essentially our self-concept, which is our identity. But identity is not necessarily a strict cutout of what we are and what we are not. People are more complex and diverse than that. In truth, our identity is flexible; we are adaptable.

And that is what we need to remind ourselves of ( By recognizing and reinforcing this within ourselves, we can better withstand external attacks on our self-concept. Because truth is not dependent on, nor is it modified, by the superficial scrutiny of those who do not know you.

How do you get started? Click here to find out how Leslie encourages her clients to create affirmations.


Harra, D. (2018, November 06). 35 Affirmations That Will Change Your Life. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from

Beard, :., Beard, C., BeardHi, C., Hi, Says:, S., 18, C., . . . Name. (2020, August 12). 25 Daily Affirmations to Improve Your Mindset. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from

Positive Daily Affirmations: Is There Science Behind It? (2020, December 16). Retrieved December 28, 2020, from

Sherman, D., & Cohen, G. (2006, May 07). The Psychology of Self‐defense: Self‐Affirmation Theory. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from

Published by Counseling With Leslie

Leslie Stevens, M.Ed., LCMHC is a North Carolina and Virginia board-certified licensed professional counselor. She co-owns a successful practice in Carrboro, North Carolina. Leslie specializes in helping adults navigate stress, depression, anxiety, and perfectionism. Additionally, she is a life strategist, spiritual coach, and writer.

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