The theory behind affirmations and how to make them work for you

An affirmation opens the door, it’s a beginning point on the path to change

- Louise Hay


Affirmations have been growing in popularity in the self help world as a way to practically change your life. However, it seems that most people who engage in that practice, even the most committed ones, don’t really understand the principles behind it and what makes them work or not work. It is my intent with this article to bring a little bit of clarity on that topic (as far as my own understanding goes) and hopefully this subject won’t be as elusive to you by the time you are done reading this.


If you ask most people, they will tell you that an affirmation is a positive saying that you tell yourself in order to affect your life in a more positive way. I totally agree with that and I know you already knew it but hang in there because there is a little concept that I want to introduce to you. Literally, everything you say is an affirmation. You are affirming when you say “I am tired”, “I am stressed out” or “I am so stupid”. For most people, they think the affirming is only happening when they stand in front of the mirror with their list of affirmations in hand and saying it with intent, but it doesn’t end there. You are affirming all day everyday. So it’s time to pay attention to everything you say.

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The goal of affirmations is to change the way you feel and believe about a specific topic. If you have been in the self help world for a while, you know that the seat of your beliefs is your subconscious mind. Some people call it innate intelligence, smart body or even autonomic nervous system. It’s the part of you that does all the cellular job that you are not even aware of, that breathes when you are sleeping or that makes your heart beat. Basically, if you think of yourself as a computer, your subconscious mind would be the operating system. Your beliefs are the core programs that are installed (and run in the background) and when you are affirming, you are consciously attempting to upgrade some of those programs.

So an affirmation is a deliberate communication with your subconscious mind with the intent to install a new program, a new idea, a new belief, a new paradigm of reality. Once that new belief is installed, you start scoping reality through that new lens and by the law of attraction, you start manifesting in your life things that match that new belief.

So maybe you knew already all of this, maybe you didn’t. However, you’ve been practicing affirmations for a little while now but don’t seem to find any results. Let’s explore why this is happening.


  1. You make the process too brainy, your heart is not involved

    The number one mistake that most people make while affirming is that they make it a mind only process. They go through the list of affirmations that they have without involving their feelings. Emotion deprived words have no manifesting power. You need to find a way to invite your heart in the process and connect to the emotional essence of what you are affirming. Only when mind (with a clear intent) and heart (with the emotional essence of what you are affirming) join forces in the process, you will find the outcome that you are looking for.

  2. You feel drastically different than what you are affirming

    This happens when what you are affirming is at the total opposite or not in alignment with the way you feel or believe. Let’s say you feel very sad because of the latest circumstances that happened in your life and you are affirming and saying “I am joyful”. In that situation, the way you think and feel are not coherent, therefore the affirmation has no power. You will have to disable the way you feel at that time and connect to more elevated emotions for that affirmation to be efficient.

  3. Your self talk is too negative

    Let’s say that you want to reinforce how intelligent you are with you affirmations. So you include in your list of affirmations the statements “I am smart and getting smarter and smarter”. You are doing everything right when you are affirming, however, while you go through your day, everytime you make a mistake at work for example, you have the habit of saying immediately “Oh my god I am so stupid”. This is something that will completely erase your affirming work.

  4. Your conscious mind is too busy

    Your conscious mind can get in the way of your affirmation process when it is too occupied and when you are not able to sustain a clear intention because of stress or the circumstances going on in your life. You have to remember that the goal of affirmations is to leave a positive imprint on your subconscious mind. The other thing that you have to know is that your subconscious mind is more accessible when you conscious mind is more or less out of the way, meaning that your thought process is not as hectic.

  5. You are not consistent enough

    With all the previous points in mind, you understand now that it takes a specific state of being to allow your affirmations to hit home and some days, that state of being will be more achievable than others. So you have to give a try to your affirmations regularly. It is possible to affirm only once and to have a new paradigm of reality installed if your intention is crystal clear and your emotions are utterly aligned, but the odds are that it will take you more than doing it only one time to have it happen. So keep at it.


Now that you are more clear of what will get in the way of your affirmations, let’s look at actionable tips that will make them work better for you.

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  1. Get some clarity of mind

    Prior to affirming, make sure that you achieve some clarity of mind. I will usually say my affirmations right after a meditation, when my mind is still pretty calm. Most days I will do them within the first minutes after I wake up because I am not yet trapped in the momentum or my day. Days where for some reason I couldn’t do them in the early morning or right after a meditation, I will take few minutes before my affirmations to center myself, slow down my breathing and focus on something that doesn’t require too much of my attention like my breath, until I can sense some sort of mind clarity and then I will affirm. It’s important for you to do whatever practice you have to center yourself before your affirmations because when your intention is clear and your conscious mind is still, your subconscious is more imprintable.

  2. Achieve heart coherence

    By heart coherence, I mean the capacity to sustain elevated emotions like gratitude, appreciation, peace, optimism or joy. Those are among the most allowing feeling states. Connecting to those emotions will disarm all the negative emotions that could get in the way of your affirming process. The way I like to do it is by taking 2 minutes before my affirmations to do the Quick Coherence Technique from the Heart Math Institute. The whole point is to slowly breathe from your heart center, while thinking about things that generate in you feelings of joy, gratitude and appreciation.

  3. Connect to the emotional essence of the affirmation

    When you start affirming, don’t just say the words, but connect to the emotional essence of what you say. Let’s say your affirmation is “I am free” . The question you want to ask yourself is what does freedom feel like? What is it for you to feel free, emotionally and even viscerally? When you do that emotional work, your affirmations gain power to a whole new level.

  4. Build your affirmations gradually

    Let’s say you’ve always been a stress ball in your life and you want to change that. So you create the affirmation: “I am calm”. When you will be saying that affirmation, chance are very high that your mind and body will not comply with it. It will sound fake to you. That is because you are still very anchored in the vibration of being stressed and what you affirm is too drastically opposed to the way you feel. You might want to start with statements like: “I am allowing myself to be calmer” or “it’s possible for me to respond with more calm”. When it feels like you’ve integrated those initial affirmations, you can work your way up to statements like “I am calm”.

  5. Clean up your self talk

    As you engage in this process, it is important to start paying attention to those little things that you tell yourself innocently that are not serving you. Things like “I am so stupid”, “I am so broke”, “I can’t do this”, “I am so overwhelmed” etc. are things that need to exit your vocabulary progressively. This doesn’t mean that you need to ignore how you feel in a situation, it only means that there is no need to emphasise it even more. As you start doing that clean up work, you will make it more possible for your affirmations to sink in.

  6. Be consistent

    This is something that I won’t stress enough. Reaching the state of being that will allow your affirmations to hit home will most likely take more that one trial. So you want to be consistent at it. Practice your affirmations regularly. Make it part of your routine somehow and the results will be more apparent.

I hope this article helped you understand a bit more why affirmations can be a life changing tool in your life if you do them right. Share it with others if you find it valuable and if there is more you would like to discuss about the subject, let’s continue the conversation in the comments section.

- Xavier