We all know that affirmations (as corny as they might sound while saying them) are actually quite effective. Today I learned that affirmations may be even more powerful when they are phrased in the form of a question, rather than a statement.
I have instructed many people on the power of affirmations and how they are a powerful tool for helping us reach our fitness, health and wellness goals. I use them myself, and I have seen them produce miracles in many lives. Affirmations are a proven, effective way to reprogram your subconscious brain. This is so important is because your subconscious brain is the “boss” of you. It will make happen whatever it believes, through controlling your conscious and unconscious actions every day.
Your subconscious brain operates at about the level of a three-year-old, so if you say something with enough emotion and accompany that with images, it will believe you – even if your conscious brain doesn’t. Since it’s your three-year-old that runs the show most of the time (whether you like it or not), it’s crucial to get that little toddler on board with your goals and dreams!
Good, but not perfect
You can use your conscious brain to reprogram your subconscious brain using certain techniques, and affirmations are one of these very powerful techniques. Many people have trouble with affirmations, however, because since they are traditionally phrased as a statement, they can cause a conflict between your conscious brain and your subconscious brain if your conscious brain doesn’t believe the affirmative statement you are making. Pounding away at the subconscious brain with repeated affirmations will eventually reprogram it over time due to the sheer volume of messages (it’s actually just a brainwashing technique), but it requires significant willpower to implement because we are forcing ourselves to say something we don’t believe (yet).
Since most people feel this as cognitive dissonance, they stop doing their affirmations. Their mind fights against it and makes them forget, or they just don’t want to do it because the mental exercise is emotionally uncomfortable. Some even find that affirmation statements like “I am thin and fit” when they are far from it, even feels like a lie, which causes negative affirmations to follow, canceling out the positive ones.
Is there a better way?
I am always on the hunt to reduce the need for willpower because I firmly believe that achieving true fitness doesn’t have to be a battle. This is why I was so excited to read the research study by Dolores Albarracin, published in Psychological Science, April 2010, Volume 21, Number 4. She discovered that phrasing affirmations as a question instead of a statement drastically increased success! When people asked – “Am I going to exercise today?” instead of saying “I will exercise today.” – they were much more likely to follow through.
She found that framing the desired outcome as a question presented a challenge to the person instead of a requirement that they might rebel against. By asking themselves a question, people were more likely to build their own motivation. The results of this experiment showed that participants not only did better as a result of the question but that asking themselves a question did indeed increase their intrinsic motivation because the affirmation was easier to say since it wasn’t a statement that might not be true yet, hence no cognitive dissonance. The effect was still the same though, becuase what got sent to the toddler brain was the same images and emotions the statement would provide, but more powerful because the cognitive dissonance wasn’t there.
I will. Will you?
All it takes is switching two little words in your daily affirmations. Instead of “I will,” use “will I?” Try it and see. It makes a lot of sense to me, and it sure is easier in a lot of ways for many reasons, to perform daily affirmations without the tedious feeling of forcing a new belief. Will I be doing affirmations this way from now on? I think so. Will you?
Here is a hilarious video of the traditional way of performing affirmations. Watch it (it’s less than a minute) and get some laughter chemicals pumping and raise your metabolism a bit. Keep in mind, this technique still works, and is still the most effective in many cases, but I think professor Albarracin has done us all a huge favor with her breakthrough study.