We all have something we’d like to change, right? And we know—you know—exactly what it is and what you have to do. But, there can be a pretty wide gap between the knowledge and the application. After all, you know what they say about even the best laid plans…
When it comes to lifestyle changes to improve health and well-being, in my experience, people try to take on too much too soon. Without really considering the immediate and long-term costs. But I’m going to save the spiel about goal-setting and focus on one simple, constructive thing you can do every day to make sure your changes stick.
And I know it works because it’s worked—and continues to work—for me.
It’s called the power of positive affirmations.
The Effects of Positive Affirmations
At the end of every single day, I assess how I feel. I look at the things I did that will help me accomplish my goal, and create that positive feeling. Then, I think about how I’m going to continue that trend tomorrow. Sure, unexpected things can happen. But at the end of each day, there should be something I can look to and declare a victory.
It might sound silly, or even cheesy, but it’s effective because it lets me see that I’m making at least some progress each day, without becoming an all-consuming obsession. And, you know what? The effects of positive affirmations are actually supported through scientific study! When you affirm your daily victories and note the positive things you’ve done, it could actually change the way your brain works in the future, making goals easier to stick to and achieve.
Researchers believe that self-affirmation activates key parts of the brain linked to self-assessment and valuation when contemplating future activities. In other words, encouraging feedback on the little things you do well right now sparks your brain’s reward system. This may pave the way for even bigger achievements later on.
Give Yourself Some Credit!
So, let’s say one evening your ambition gets the best of you. You decide that tomorrow you want to eat three healthy home-cooked meals, exercise for an hour, and relax before bed. But life happens and your friend calls. You miss your exercise, and you’re forced to grab a lunch on the go. But hey, you still got to relax before bed and eat two home-cooked meals. So don’t be afraid to give yourself some credit.
You accomplished three things that contributed to your lifestyle change and you’re still standing. Bring on tomorrow!
Focusing on the triumphs keeps you feeling good and shows you that your plans are always within reach. It’s so easy to beat yourself up or even question your willpower when one thing doesn’t go right. But, guess what? It’s not a lack of willpower or a complete derailment. If you keep a daily tab on your successes, you’ll be able to implement those lifestyle changes—and make them stick—sooner and easier than you think.
Cascio C., et al., “Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation,” Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, April 2016; 11(4):621-629; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814782/, last accessed July 17, 2017.