Research Shows Doing Affirmations Can Make Things Worse (Here’s Why)

Posted by on August 18, 2015 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living, Inspirational, Thrive with 1 Comment

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Editor’s Note: the author of this article, Dr. Matt James, was recently a featured guest on the Conscious Life Awakened Speaker Series (CLASS).  Listen to the replay (no opt-in required) HERE.

Dr. Matt James |

Affirmations Suck!

Before you hit unsubscribe to my blog, take a deep breath and keep reading. Oh, and say something positive to yourself.

Good…. And, now that I have your attention, let me also say, I use affirmations to power through many areas of my life. And they work really well!

I know that may have been a bit confusing, so let me clear things up. Affirmations are amazing and work really well in areas that are going really well. However, all the past and current research shows that affirmations not only do not work in areas where things are bad, they can make things worse!

Saying happy things can piss you off.

Look, if positive thinking alone could fix everything, you would have solved all your problems already. You would just need to think happy thoughts, and BOOM, problems solved. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that way. In fact, affirmations and/or positive thinking makes matters worse in the area you most like needed it this most. This was clearly explained by Ray Williams, a fellow Psychology Today Blogger in 2012. The research he sites explains the issues.

People in the studies who had low self-esteem actually felt worse about themselves after doing affirmation.

Related Article: Why Affirmations Can Be Bad For You (and What To Do Instead)

And, let’s get specific with this. The reason why affirmations don’t work in areas you desperately need them, is that there is an underlying issue or a deeper baggage that needs to be released. If you have overwhelming sadness, no amount of saying you are happy person is going to change that.

That is called denial and avoidance. And, quite frankly it pisses your unconscious mind off.

However, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, because affirmations can serve a purpose. Yesterday, I was feeling a little low on energy and not so motivated. I did a quick series of affirmations to get motivated to workout. And I had a great workout!

Fifteen years ago, when I weighted 235 pounds (which on a 5’ 9” frame is obese), no affirmation would be able to get me going. I was great at making every possible excuse in the world to avoid being healthy. Please understand, I wanted to be healthy. Most people that I have met want to be healthy, happy and successful.

I had baggage and I needed to resolve the baggage at the deeper level. Once I let the negative emotions and limiting decisions go, I had the ability to utilize positive focus and positive language in a very effect way.

There are three requisites for change and empowerment. This is modeled from successful individuals and very easy to follow.

Step 1: Release your baggage / blocks, then set a clear goal.

Step 2: Take action towards that goal

Step 3: Focus on the positive

You see, focus and affirmations come last, and again, this is how successful people operate.

Step number one is getting rid of the baggage and having a clear outcome. In a recent article on Yahoo Finance, Richard Branson describes this as the essential first step when dealing with an issue. He was discussing his decision to sue the British Government over a rail contract, and he said his first reaction was anger. Then he said, but taking action based on anger won’t lead to a positive. So he said he needed to become calm and clear first. Calm, meaning no anger, clear meaning a goal.

Once you are calm and clear, then it is time for step two, which is action. You can be totally free of baggage and have an amazing health goal, and at some point, you have to get up off the couch and go workout. You have to go the store and eat right. That is a key. So taking action is a necessary step for success.

Now that you have taken action, what do you do when the naysayers show up? “Oh, you are on a new diet? We shall see….” You have to be able to maintain your positive focus. I did a blog post a while back about dealing with negative people, and I won’t hide from this – they do exist. This is where affirmations can be helpful. You are going to have up days and down days. The key is to keep your motivation and focus on track so you reach your goal and find that happiness.

So I guess affirmations don’t suck, rather they just need to be used at the right time. Or to put it in positive language speak; affirmations are great and use them wisely!

matt james small compAnd now I am going to go give myself my afternoon affirmation: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!” (SNL reference for those that think I am being serious….)

Editor’s Note: the author of this article, Dr. Matt James will be the featured guest on the Conscious Life Awakened Speaker Series (CLASS) Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 5 pm Pacific. Get access to the empowering call — or receive complimentary access to the replay — when you sign up for free here. 

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