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Self-Talking Yourself To Happiness
17th May 2022 • The Science of Self • Peter Hollins
00:00:00 00:08:24

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Try self-affirmation, but focus on affirmations that are value-based, rather than those dealing with your traits or performance as a person.

#Affirmations #Cascio #ChristopherCascio #Meditation #MentalChatter #Neurohappiness #PositiveThoughts #Selfaffirmations #Self-TalkingYourselfToHappiness #RussellNewton #NewtonMG #NeuroHappiness


Meditation is something we can practice and deepen over the course of years – or a whole lifetime – and it’s also something we can dip into literally any moment of any day. So much of our unhappiness manifests and expresses itself as thoughts. Our constant flow of mental chatter can be, when we start to look at it, surprisingly negative and repetitive. During meditation, you may be surprised to find just how relentless your inner self-talk really is.

But could you change the program, so to speak?

Most of us have heard of the technique of self-affirmation. This is when you use self-talk to affirm your own worth, to support yourself, to show yourself kindness, and to boost your appreciation of your own value as a human being. Basically, it’s speaking nicely to yourself!

s associates was published in:

They set up a study of 67 participants, who were then asked to rank the personal importance of eight separate areas of life. The areas were creativity, family and friends, humor, independence, business or earning money, politics, religious values, and spontaneity. Then, half of the participants were put in MRI machines and asked to think about the area of life they rated most highly. They were asked to dwell on these positive thoughts, visualizing themselves having related experiences, or thinking about the details of this area. The other half were not told to focus in this way.

The findings suggested that self-affirmation boosted activity in the ventral striatum and ventral medial cortex, which are areas of the brain connected with the experience of reward. What’s more, the research also showed that, when affirmations were future-based, they tended to have a more powerfully positive effect on the brain. An example of a future-based affirmation is, “I’m going to do well with my business next year.”

We’ll explore the way that thinking about the future can impact our happiness in the present in a later chapter in the book, but for now, it’s interesting simply to note that words of affirmation are not mere words – they have real consequences on our neural connections and brain activity. Self-affirmations are not just fluff. The researchers claim that they act as a sort of psychological immune system or a modulator, buffering us against setbacks or disappointments by reminding us of the resources we have and the positive traits we still possess.

But the world of affirmations is more complex than it looks. It matters how we engage in affirmative self-talk. If we tell ourselves, “I’m perfect just the way I am,” but we don’t really believe it, we could actually end up creating more psychological distress for ourselves. Instead, we need to pay close attention to the kind of affirmation we’re giving ourselves. If we want to boost our feelings of self-worth and bolster our self-esteem, it may work better to draw attention to the things we value, for example our work, hobbies, or relationships.

We need to remind ourselves consistently that our self-worth has a broad foundation, and by using affirmations, we can draw our focus to those things in life that we value and that give us purpose and meaning. But the researchers also discovered that these affirmations are turbo-charged when they are focused on the future. The theory is that, if we can imagine a promising outcome, we can begin to create a version of ourselves that is better able to tackle any challenges that may come our way. Or, to put it as Cascio did, “We find novel evidence that a future frame may act synergistically with value-based self-affirmations to bolster a sense of self prior to threat exposure.”

How can we use these findings to improve our own self-talk?

Importantly, it’s about more than simply flattering yourself or saying nice things. To be value-based, affirmations of this kind need to remind you of the principles and beliefs you hold dear. The idea is that you can tap into your own integrity and identity, and this makes you feel your own worth and value more deeply. Which makes you happier!

Here are some examples of values-based self-affirmations:

I trust myself to get through any challenge that may come my way.

No matter what happens, I can always choose kindness and compassion.

I always speak up for the things I believe in.

I’m a good artist, who will continue to create the kind of things that matter to me.

My family will always be there for me.

I’m strong; I know how to use my talents to make money.

Of course, yours might not look anything like this – values are always going to be unique and personal to the people who have them. But notice how each of the above are rooted, not in a place of personal attributes or esteem, but rather in what we value as people. Notice also that many of them are oriented towards the future. Creativity, family, spirituality, money… what do you value? And how does that value look if you project it into the future?

In the past, self-help advocates suggested affirmations that focused on fixed, individual characteristics (“I am beautiful, I am successful, I am intelligent”), but it’s easy to see why these can have mixed results. When you dig into your values, however, you are encouraging your brain to inoculate itself against future adversity, not to mention help you feel better in the moment.

To practice your own affirmations, simply make sure that each one speaks to your deeper principles and core beliefs, and then add a future element for extra potency. You can write these affirmations down and read through them throughout the day, or say them every morning – in the same way as you would take a daily multivitamin!