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How and Why Affirmations Work. The Power of Positive Thinking.

Updated on February 4, 2014

Positive, Negative and Wishful Thinking

People control what they think about and they can think about the past, present or future. Positive thinking is when you think about good things that are happening, have happened or are likely to happen. The thoughts can make you feel good and they can help you succeed. Negative thinking is when you think about bad things that are happening, have happened or might happen in the future.

Wishful thinking is when you form thoughts that are unlikely to come true. You are fantasizing about things you want and you are thinking that you are very unlikely to actually get them. You are also thinking that you don't already have it. I told myself I could not bike to the beach because it was too far away. That stopped me from biking to the beach for years. I wished I could bike to the beach. That stopped me from biking to the beach for a year. Then I told myself I could bike to the beach. That got me to bike to the beach at least once every summer since then. The beach I am talking about is 37 miles away from my house.

Positive Thinking
Wishful Thinking
Negative Thinking
I can do it.
I wish I could do it.
I can't do it.
I am strong.
I wish I was strong.
I am weak.
I will succeed.
I am going to win the lottery.
I will fail.
I took this picture the first time I road my bicycle 37 miles. It is my desktop background.
I took this picture the first time I road my bicycle 37 miles. It is my desktop background. | Source

Reasons or Excuses

Negative thinking and wishful thinking come with excuses. The word "because" is often used or implied. Positive thinking comes with reasons why you will succeed. The word "if" is often used or implied. I can't do five one-handed push ups because I am not strong enough. I wish I could do five one-handed push-ups because I can't now. I can do five one-handed push ups if I do them on a set of stairs to make them easier. All the statements are true for me.

When I told myself that I could bike 37 miles both ways there was an "if" attached. If I trained and kept increasing the distance I could bike then in August I could bike 37 miles. Without the if statement it would have been wishful thinking. It was in the realm of possibility because I planned on taking the steps I needed to take to achieve my goal. To use the power of positive thinking the thoughts need to be followed by action. If you don't plan on taking action then you are just wishing.

I was thinking about what I wanted.
I was thinking about what I wanted. | Source
I stopped thinking about skinny forearms and started thinking about muscle.
I stopped thinking about skinny forearms and started thinking about muscle. | Source
I thought about what I had to work with instead of the weight bench I don't have.
I thought about what I had to work with instead of the weight bench I don't have. | Source

How To Practice Positive Thinking

Ask yourself if your thoughts are useful. Are they making you feel good or hurting you? Will they help you accomplish something or stop you from getting what you want? When you ask yourself questions like that you will probably notice that most of the time negative thinking is not useful. Negative thinking can actually cause a lot of different health problems. Positive thinking is good for your health. So if you are being negative then you should have a good reason.

The easiest way not to think about something is to think about something else. If you notice you are thinking about bad things then replace the thoughts with something good. If you notice you are thinking about things that have not happened and are unlikely to come true then think about something good that is real. Keep practicing and it will become a habit. You will naturally spend more time focused on the good and less on the bad.

You should also practice switching negative thoughts to positive thoughts. When you notice you are thinking about something you don't want then switch it with something you want. Fat, junk food, boring exercises, being overweight and being unhealthy are negative thoughts for a person that wants to lose weight. Those thoughts don't help. Try switching those thoughts to positive ones.

I am thinking about muscle, healthy food, fun exercises, being lean and being healthy because I am working on getting a flat stomach. I am also thinking about things I am going to do with my lean body and how I will feel when I get it. If you don't want something then it is better to focus on what you want. I don't want to be stressed. I want to be relaxed. So I think of things that make me feel relaxed. You can also benefit from using positive self talk. Self talk is when you talk to yourself.

Thinking about beaches is useful. It helps me to be relaxed, happy, lean and strong.
Thinking about beaches is useful. It helps me to be relaxed, happy, lean and strong. | Source

Why Positive Affirmations Don't Work.

Affirmations are statements that affirm or declare that something is true. Writing down, saying, listening to, or reading affirmations over and over again can cause you to change your beliefs. You use repetition to reprogram yourself. Positive affirmations often don't work because there is too much resistance and because people are impatient. You resist because you don't believe repeating affirmations will work, you know the affirmation is a lie or because it conflicts with your negative affirmations. You get impatient because you are not sure if it is working or not and then you quit. That is what usually happens.

If you use "I am lean." as an affirmation and you are overweight then there is going to be too much resistance. You are setting yourself up to fail. Repeating the affirmation everyday probably would most likely be a waste of time. Another reason affirmations don't work is because you put them out of your mind. Repeating affirmations over and over again is not very effective if you don't think about them the rest of the day.

How to Make Your Affirmations More Effective

Affirmations get your attention. That is what they do. They get you to focus on certain thoughts. For an affirmation to work you need to keep repeating it until you accept the statement as the truth. Making the affirmation more effective increases the chance of success and reduces the number of times you need to repeat the statement. To make affirmations more effective use the present tense, make them believable and reinforce them with action. I like to exercise regularly. Exercise makes me feel good. Everyday I workout for an hour. I enjoy eating healthy foods. I am getting stronger and leaner everyday. Those affirmations are good because they are believable and because they are in the present tense. You can repeat the affirmations and then take action to make the affirmation true.

The affirmations above are all true for me now. I am working on getting rid of some belly fat because I want a flat belly. The actions I take make the affirmations true. Affirmations should be the truth. Another way to make affirmations more effective is to repeat them throughout the day. That way it is more likely to influence your behavior. Repeat the affirmation often enough that you don't forget about them when you are making decisions. If you want a list of some good affirmations then check out Affirmations That Work.

© 2014 Michael H

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    • Torrs13 profile image

      Tori Canonge 

      4 years ago from North Carolina

      Well done! I believe that positive thinking can take a person far in life because it tends to rub off on their actions. You are right about using "if" in our statements. When we do that, we leave the door to failure wide open. We need to shut the bad out and focus on the good things. Great hub!

    • Bk42author profile image

      Brenda Thornlow 

      4 years ago from New York

      Great hub! I've been making a deliberate effort to think positive thoughts, for to many years I had been a cynic and it was getting me nowhere. Thanks for posting!

    • Ebonny profile image

      Ebonny 

      4 years ago from UK

      I like that you pointed out the need to ask yourself if a particular thoguht is helpful. Good hub.

    • DonnaCaprio profile image

      Donna Caprio Quinlan 

      4 years ago from Newburyport, MA

      I believe that thoughts become things. Changing thoughts can be easier said than done. It takes a lot of practice and patience. I like how you said the easiest way not to think about something is to think about something else. I'll keep practicing.

    • DreamerMeg profile image

      DreamerMeg 

      4 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Excellent hub on affirmations and making them work.

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