How to Use Affirmations so they Actually Work | 3 Step Process (and there’s a catch!)

How to use Affirmations - woman in red sweater with big smile holding hands together

Many of us look to others—or our activities and successes—to confirm or boost our personal sense of worth, even though you are already amazing.

You’re unique, interesting and wonderful, you just need to believe it—and affirmations can help.

When and Why to use Affirmations?

To “affirm” something means that you declare it to be true. It also means to uphold, confirm or ratify. In this sense, affirmations are a tool to remind us of what’s important.

But more often, affirmations are used as an intention to help us move toward a more positive interpretation of ourselves, our life and our world.

Common intentions are to help us be more confident, worry less and see ourselves as lovable. Another common use of affirmations is to help us achieve our goals.

When Affirmations become Problematic

There is a ‘catch’ when using affirmations…

It’s been shown through scientific studies that affirmations can in some cases actually be harmful 1 : because when we use affirmations and they don’t work—we may blame ourselves and feel worse than we did before.

The MOST important thing to know about Affirmations is that…

…Affirmations don’t work unless you believe them.

So the most important thing you need to know about affirmations is that—for them to work—you need to:

  1. Believe what you’re saying!
  2. And for maximum effect you need to feel it—to embody the affirmation.

Wait a hot minute… Isn’t the whole point of affirmations to change what I believe?

Well, yes. And.

The challenge we need to overcome is that when we know something isn’t true, our brain simply ignores or discounts it.

For example: you don’t believe in Santa Claus (hopefully!), so it doesn’t matter how many times you say Santa Claus is real, your brain will always reject it!

So, what should we do then?

Well, the way to get around this is to change the words to something you DO believe. In other words we alter the affirmation wording so that what you’re saying IS true.

Let’s see how to do this as part of the 3 step process this below.

NOTE: Once you’ve worked through the example below, you can use this process to create and work with your own affirmation statements.

How to Use Affirmations in 3 Steps

Here’s the affirmation statement we’re going to use for this example:

I am enough. I do enough. I have enough. I am blessed with many gifts and I am grateful. I easily take care of myself and those around me. I am healthy, wealthy and wise in all the ways that truly matter. I attract supportive, loving relationships and joyful situations.

STEP 1) Do you believe the affirmation? If not, change the words

Review the affirmation above, and ask yourself:

  • Can I accept this statement? Is it possible? Do I 100% believe it?
    • If yes, go to Step 3)
    • If not, change the words until you can answer yes (see the grey box below)
  • Now change the words until you are 100% behind it!

Examples of how you could change the affirmation wording:

In italics are some ways you could change the affirmation so you can 100% believe and invest in it:

  • I am working on being enough. I do a lot. When I really think about it, I have enough. Even though life is (sometimes) hard I am blessed with many gifts and I am learning to be grateful. I want (or would love) to easily take care of myself and those around me. I am working towards being healthy, wealthy and wise in all the ways that truly matter. I am learning to attract supportive, loving relationships and joyful situations.

Tip: Keep changing the words as you need to, and trust your gut to let you know when something doesn’t feel right.

  • On days when you feel confident and optimistic you may find you need to change the wording less.
  • And on days when you feel more pessimistic you may need to change more of the wording.
  • Lastly, as you begin to believe the affirmation more, strengthen the words you use to be more definite.

STEP 2) Say your affirmation out loud and feel it!

  • Speak your affirmation out loud—and imagine it’s true, right now.
  • As you speak it, really feel into it. Embody it.
    • What does it feel like as you imagine this affirmation to be true?
    • What do you notice? Eg. Do you feel more grounded? Taller? More relaxed? More confident? Lighter?
    • And where and what specifically in your body feels different? Eg. shoulders dropped and relaxed, head feels light and spacious, jaw feels less tight, eyes feel softer.

Tip: Allow yourself to enjoy the feelings that go with your affirmation!

STEP 3) Repeat this process often

  • To help our brains fully embrace the affirmation, we need to repeat our affirmations (and feel them) often!

When we do this we create neural pathways that 1) feel good and 2) become habitual in a positive way.

Tip: Why not make saying the affirmations a habit, repeating them at a regular time eg. when you wake up, before meditation, before meals and/or before bed.

Sparkly Affirmation Graphics to play with

If you like the example affirmation, below are 5 sparkly affirmation graphics—one for each part of the example affirmation statement.

Click any of the individual affirmation sparkle statements below to see the full size version and save/get your own copy!

Some More Affirmation Ideas

As well as saying your affirmation aloud, some other ideas for how to use affirmations include:

  • Choose just one part of the affirmation above and focus on that.
  • Use the 5 “Sparkly” Affirmations Graphics above! Click to see a larger version, and then download or print to use for yourself!
  • Write out the affirmation and carry it around with you in your purse, on your phone, or put it somewhere you will see it often like a bathroom mirror or fridge.
  • To go deeper, write out the affirmation in your journal. Then explore questions like:
    • What is most challenging for you about this affirmation (or part of it)? What are you most excited about? What would be most helpful to work on?
    • Use your affirmation as a mantra while meditating or doing some repetitive activity like dish washing, ironing etc.


Fierce Kindness Logo

Affirmations are just one tool of many in our toolbox.

The important takeaway is: while affirmations won’t work just because you say them, if you change the words so that you really believe what you’re saying (and it feels good), then your affirmations become a force for change.

A quick reminder of the process that helps affirmations work for us is:

STEP 1) Do you believe the affirmation? If not, change the words
STEP 2) Say your affirmation out loud and feel it!
STEP 3) Repeat this process often

If you enjoyed this article about how to use affirmations, you may also like:

Change the world. Start with you!

Reference 1 Abstract on PubMed.Gov: Positive self-statements: power for some, peril for others

Image of Happy Person who knows how to use affirmations holding hands together wearing red sweater by Kraken Images


  1. Lynda

    Hi Emma, this is a great article on how to use affirmations! I love using affirmations especially in areas I am growing and stretching. Thanks so much, Lynda

    • Emma-Louise Elsey

      Hi Lynda! Great to hear you liked this article on how to use affirmations 🙂 Warmly, Emma-Louise


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