The Power of Positive Affirmations
Months ago, we began implementing practice-wide introductory activities with all of our clients at the start of every session. We chose a variety of activities that offer a balance of mindful reflection, humor, and fun: a round of deep breathing, attempting a mindful minute of silence and stillness, attempting to solve the joke of the week, and stating an affirmation. For the past three months, this newsletter has covered each warm-up activity, its purpose, its benefits for your child, and ideas for carrying each practice over in your homes. This month’s topic and the final piece in our “Warm Ups” newsletter series: the power of affirmations!
An affirmation is a short statement meant to increase feelings of self-confidence and power. Affirmations have been shown to boost positive thinking, promote motivation and action, and increase concentration on goals.
Neurologically, you can imagine affirmations as a kind of repeated “training” of the brain through visualization and verbalization of positive affirmative statements. Just as exercise can train muscles to perform their functions in a new or stronger way, stating affirmations can actually create new pathways in the brain that influence how our conscious mind responds to stressors. Remember: the ability to regulate and reduce stress leads to learning readiness!
For adults, this may look like changing your negative “self-sabotage” thoughts related to an upcoming performance review to positive, motivating ones. For example, when you may feel like saying “I’m nervous. They might say I’m bad at my job,” you can instead say, “I am competent. I perform my job duties at a high level and often contribute in ways outside of my job scope.”
For our clients, the weekly warm-up affirmations are usually targeted towards general promotion of self-confidence, positivity, and bravery. The weekly activity ideas that we pair with each warm-up can often involve new or potentially challenging tasks, such as completing a complex craft or interacting with our farm animals in a different way. For some, new tasks can cause anxiety, fear, or feelings of incompetence if an activity is perceived to be too hard.
This past week, the affirmation was “I am brave.” The associated activity idea was to feed the chickens a handful of one of their favorite snacks, chickweed! Our chickens love snacks, but, as some clients know from experience, they can peck fingers if you don’t keep your hands away! Stating the affirmation is one way to help your child feel prepared, in control, and excited about a new activity, rather than scared.
Moving beyond our topic of affirmations momentarily, this simple activity idea actually targets a variety of skills that may or may not be a part of your child’s treatment plan, but will benefit their overall learning regardless, including:
Writing out the steps in the process of feeding the chickens (target skills: planning, sequencing, initiation)
Gathering the chickweed (target skills: comprehension and following directions to recognize chickweed based on descriptive features, location concepts, and verbal instructions)
Stating the affirmation of the week, “I am brave.” (target skills: emotional awareness and regulation, mindfulness)
Observing the chickens’ behavior, including sounds and body movements (target skills: making comparisons, appreciation for nature, building empathy and compassion for other beings)
Bonus skill: emphasis on speech sounds and target words specific to your child’s sound errors, if applicable!
If you’d like to incorporate positive affirmations at home, we’ve got a few suggestions for how you can easily incorporate them into everyday routines! We (Amy and Arden) both utilize the practice of daily affirmations, and recommend choosing a time that works best for you and your family to choose and state your affirmation. The morning, over breakfast, is a great option. You can ask each family member to tell about one thing they feel nervous or unsure about in their upcoming day, and collectively choose an affirmation such as “I am prepared” or “I am confident.” Perhaps, your family members will each want to formulate their own affirmation specific to their unique day, but a collective family affirmation works well too.
If you have a family calendar or whiteboard area, you could write a weekly or daily affirmation in a central location for all to see. This is a low-lift way to incorporate them!
Affirmations also act as wonderful tools during moments of acute stress or emotional upset. If you sense your child becoming nervous or upset, model the use of affirmations, such as “I am calm” or “I can take deep breaths when I feel upset.” There are so many ways to support your child and family’s growth through positivity.
We hope your month ahead is filled with new memories, the excitement of approaching summer vacation, and continued growth in learning and communication. While we will continue to implement these practices in all of our sessions, we encourage you to join us in the use of these techniques in whatever way works for you.