My affirmation journey started with a thermos. In the aisle of navy, gunmetal, and seaweed colored thermoses sat a single cup decorated with vibrant pink and yellow blooming flowers on a teal backdrop. I reached for it. On the other side, it said, “Make today ridiculously amazing.”
I used to think that affirmations were lies that people told themselves. I thought they were for the self-help obsessed whose life was hanging on by a thread. The type that quoted Oprah if they ever caught you sighing in the breakroom. After stumbling into my first affirmation, I realized that I was wrong.
I almost put the cup back. There was a sleeker, less assuming black thermos I had my eye on. The cynic in me scoffed at the bold brush pen lettering. You don’t know my life, cup! It’s not that easy, making every day ridiculously amazing.
I bought it — 12.95 USD. I regret nothing.
What is an Affirmation?
Affirmations are positive statements that remind you of the truth about yourself and the world. They are words that cut through the crap that you internalize and carry around on your back. When used effectively, affirmations can change your self-perception and perspective on life for the better. Before learning how to keep an affirmation journal, we first need to learn how to create an affirmation.
How to Create an Affirmation
The simplicity of the phrase on my thermos is what made it compelling. It was a call to action and reinforced the idea that having a good day was up to me. Reading and rereading the quote on the mug subconsciously gave me an optimistic mindset about work. Journaling with affirmations has the same effect of repetition.
Like most of you, my job isn’t my dream job, but it pays the bills. Because of this circumstance, I used to harbor resentment whenever I clocked in. I would come home and give my husband an ear-beating about what pissed me off that day. I felt frustration and out of control. I was letting life lead me instead of driving it.
Since this first affirmation, I’ve gone on to write and use others that have profoundly affected my mental health and creativity in positive ways. I follow these two simple steps for creating an affirmation:
- Identify what you are unhappy about in your life or a negative aspect that you want to change.
- Write a short positive response that would solve your issue.
I recommend reading Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way. She has a chapter dedicated to writing affirmations. One exercise she suggests is splitting the page in half and writing a list of the negative thoughts that your annoying inner voice says about you. On the other side, write the antithesis of this thought. The positive responses are your affirmations.
I like this exercise instead of using generic phrases because it’s specific to me. Don’t get me wrong, I occasionally borrow an inspirational quote or two from Pinterest. And as I mentioned, I was inspired by a phrase on a cup. However, affirmations are not one size fits all, every time. Taking the time to write positive responses to your darkest insecurities has been empowering in my experience.
List of Affirmations
Still not sure how to write an affirmation? Here is a list that I use. Feel free to use them yourself!
· Be gentle with yourself
· Create for yourself and pleasure
· Adding more truth and beauty in the world is a selfless pursuit. More than that, it’s human.
· Speak with love about your dreams.
· You’re doing all that you can with the tools that you have at the moment.
· Value your experiences.
· Let yourself be inspired.
· Invest in yourself.
· You are worth all the time and energy it takes to tell the best version of the story.
· Quality always trumps quantity.
· Does it make you happy? Does it make you proud? Then it’s good.
· I am an artist. That is the self I serve first.
How to Keep an Affirmation Journal
Journaling with affirmations has alleviated my anxiety about work and creativity. Doing these exercises also forces me to reread my affirmations, so they are not forgotten in my initial list. Trying to be positive is a skill that takes practice. Daily-life can wear you down. It’s easy to lose faith. These exercises are meant to recharge their power by seeing them differently. The reason to keep an affirmation journal is to remind you of your true self. In the quiet moments that you set aside to create and collage is a form of mindfulness.
- Use your affirmations as a writing prompt. Freewriting is a meditative style of writing. Let your mind drift from one idea to the next without editing or judgment. If I used the affirmation, “Let yourself be inspired,” I may write for a few minutes about what books I’ve read or other people’s art that inspire me. My best ideas come from doing this exercise.
- Type your affirmations and format them in different fonts and various sizes. Cut them out into strips of paper to collage on a journal spread. Typography is expressive. The same phrase printed in different fonts can change the feeling of your affirmation. Using a bold sans serif versus a script font could mean the difference between authoritative and playful. The goal in this exercise is to personalize the phrase further and make it stand out to you.
- Write your affirmations on different textured papers and layer them into a collage. Journaling is tactile. Choosing soft cotton rag paper to write, “Be gentle with yourself,” is a compliment to what this phrase means to me. When doing this exercise, I search my apartment for junk mail, scraps of paper and fabrics from old projects, and gift-wrapping supplies.
- Fill up an entire page by writing your affirmations over and over again. Your affirmations will become a text background where you can collage magazine clippings or photos overtop of it to make it a work of art. Vision boards are a form of creative visualizations. This exercise is a double whammy to bring about a positive change in your mindset about your present moment and future.
How Many Affirmations Should I Focus on?
The choice is totally up to you! If I’m in a mental downward spiral and need to focus on a specific issue, I’ll use one affirmation. For example, when dealing with anxiety about sharing my writing online, I repeatedly journaled with the affirmation, “Create for yourself and pleasure.”
Sometimes, I’ll journal with multiple affirmations in one entry because that’s what I needed to keep me grounded. The key takeaway is to listen to yourself. Do what you need at the moment.
How Long Does It Take for Affirmations to Work?
The key to the effectiveness of an affirmation is if you believe in it. I’m a forgetful person. When I feel like my back is against the rope and my self-critic is yammering, I resort to old ways of negative coping that are counter-productive to my growth and healing. Therefore, journaling frequently (2–3 times a week) is how I remind myself who I truly am.
Maintaining an affirmation journal has been key to personal growth. Taking pen to paper is vital in almost every discipline before manifestation can occur. The goal is to take your words from the imagination into reality. Journaling reinforces the positivity that you are cultivating. Repetition is key! Your journal is the tool for you to meditate on your affirmation.
Bryonna Sieck is a writer and book artist residing in Baltimore, MD. She graduated with an M.F.A in Creative Writing & Publishing Arts from the University of Baltimore. She shares bookmaking, journaling, and paper craft inspiration on Youtube and Instagram. She co-owns 1134 Press who has published For Us: A Self Care Journal for Mamas, Those Who Fly (fiction), and Gestalt (fiction).