Here are three deceptively simple, powerful affirmations and how (exactly) they can help
I (Tess) am delighted to feature this excellent post by my friend Durgadas Allon Duriel: social worker, holistic health practitioner, astrologer, yogi, magic worker, and author.
(Scroll to the end of the post for his full bio, photo, and links to his fabulous books.)
Affirmations have been a popular part of self-help for many years, but one topic I don’t see explored much is specific ways in which they can be beneficial. What can these healing statements actually do? Consequently, I thought it would be helpful to share some that have helped me, and how.
Affirmation: “My body is divine.”
Like so many of us, I believed for years that “the body is a temple” while looking at my own with eyes of judgment and criticism. The weight of diet culture (pun intended) and the constant bombardment of messages about needing to look better were simply too strong for that conscious belief to root deeply. My subconscious belief was more like “my body is undesirable,” which affected how I perceived myself and also fostered a toxic relationship with food.
With compassion for myself about this topic, I began to affirm that “my body is divine” five to ten times a day. While it didn’t erode all of my food and body image issues – I think that’s a tough mountain to climb in this culture – it did make me feel immensely better about my body. I’m able to accept and find sincere love for it regardless of what it looks like most of the time, and that wasn’t true before.
Affirmation: “I have effective coping skills.”
As someone who’s had anxiety since childhood, this affirmation was like the sun peeking out through the clouds for me in terms of dealing with it. Before I started reciting it, I was addressing my anxiety with mindfulness and questioning my anxious thoughts, the latter of which I learned to do while training to become a cognitive behavioral therapist. These practices were helpful, but something was clearly missing.
One day I was reflecting on my anxiety and recognized that even though anxiety told me I couldn’t handle whatever it was fixated on, I tended to navigate adversity well in practice. In light of that, I created this affirmation. I started affirming it about 30 times a day until it became a reflexive thought in my mind. Then, as the feeling of anxiety would begin, this thought would pop up. The recognition that I could handle what my anxiety was worried about, despite how I felt, made me feel less and less anxious over time.
Affirmation: “It’s OK to need help, it is normal to need help, and the help of Spirit is always available.”
I was raised by a family that embraced the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” notion that was popular in the 1980s. Consequently, I came to see needing the help of others as a deficiency in me. Even as I embarked upon a career in helping professions, first in nonprofits and later as a therapist, and came to understand that there was no shame in needing help, I struggled with accepting it for myself.
So I decided to try to change that the best way I knew how: first, by questioning any thought that would suggest there was something wrong with me for needing help, which is part of cognitive behavioral therapy, and second, by making an affirmation about this. As I recited this new affirmation daily, I started to feel the weight of the world fall off of my shoulders. I began to recognize that I didn’t need to grasp for control so tightly or strive to be a superhero. I could just be me, imperfect and still divine, and accept help without judging myself.
The Undeniable Power of Affirmations
What all of these situations have in common is that despite having a degree of complexity, there were relatively straightforward negative beliefs involved in them. These beliefs could be questioned, dismantled, and then replaced with affirmations. As long as I didn’t struggle to belief those affirmations, they would root within and replace the old beliefs over time (struggling to believe affirmations can reinforce or deepen our doubt, rather than make the belief we’re affirming feel truer). Either entirely, or enough to make a worthwhile difference – like a plant in a garden claiming the soil a weed once occupied. In fact, as a therapist and personally, I have found that whenever we have a negative belief we want to shift, one of the most effective ways is by designing an affirmation that affirms what we want to believe instead. In other words, if you realize you need to hear something, say it to yourself – over and over until you deeply believe it.
In light of my own positive experiences with affirmations, I sincerely recommend them to my therapy clients, and affirmations like those shared here are at the heart of my new book: Worthy as You Are: Weed Out Unhealthy Beliefs and Nourish Your Authentic Self. It is all about what I call “inner gardening,” the marrying of cognitive behavioral therapy skills with spiritual practice, and it includes lengthy affirmative sections to help us establish healthy, compassionate thought patterns in areas of life like body image, career, sexuality, gender, self-esteem, money, romantic relationships and more. If you enjoyed this post, I encourage you to check it out, as well as my new spiritual healing Instagram account @affirmationsthatheal!
Durgadas Allon Duriel (San Francisco, CA) is a licensed clinical social worker and a certified holistic health practitioner. He is also an astrologer, yogi, and magic worker, having practiced magic since childhood, whose work centers earth-oriented spirituality. He holds a master’s degree in social welfare from UCLA and is the author of Worthy As You Are: Weed Out Unhealthy Beliefs and Nourish Your Authentic Self and The Little Work: Magic to Transform Your Everyday Life from Llewellyn Worldwide.