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How you should be using affirmations

using affirmations effectively The person generally credited with the discovery (or development) of affirmations was Emil Coué, a Frenchman who graduated with a degree in pharmacology in 1876 and worked as an apothecary from 1882 to 1910. Coué studied hypnosis but was interested in the power of suggestion and how it worked both in and out of trance. He began praising the some of the medicines he was dispensing or leaving small positive notes in medicine packets for some of his patients to find. He discovered that those who received these messages improved more than those who did not.

This led Coué to believe that although the effects of medication were primarily physical, they could be improved by the patient’s state of mind or attitude. He suggested that replacing ‘thoughts of illness’ with ‘thoughts of cure’ would help people to feel better and that repeating positive thoughts over time would encourage the mind to accept them as true.

Coué called his method ‘auto-suggestion’, and asked his patients to repeat his suggested affirmation – day by day in every way I am getting better and better – 20 times each morning and each evening. It needed to be repeated softly but with faith until it came to be fully accepted.

Until recently there has been little evidence to show a specific psychological mechanism by which affirmations might work, other than perhaps placebo effect. However, there is now some, kindly gathered together by Affirmative Thinking, who suggest that neuroplasticity is the answer - our experiences make physical changes in our brains, which shape our thinking. But even without this, if repeating negative thoughts, such as 'I am never good enough' or 'I can’t' makes you feel bad, it seems reasonable to assume that repeating positive ones will help you feel better. Anecdotal evidence and hundreds of self-help books demonstrate that many people find affirmations helpful.


What should my affirmations be about?

So if you want to quit smoking but worry that you'll fail because you have in the past, use something like 'I have all the courage, determination and willpower I need to quit for good'.


Designing affirmations

You need to put some thought into your affirmation and make sure it

Using affirmations

There are many different ways of working with affirmations, and you may not want to repeat yours a total of 40 times a day as Coué's patients were asked to.

The method I like best is the ‘mirror technique’ which first appeared in the ‘The Magic of Believing’ by Claude Bristol and has also appeared in other self-help books such as ‘You Can Heal Your Life’ by Louise Hay.

Stand in front of a mirror, look directly into your own eyes and repeat your affirmation. Speak the affirmation aloud - quietly but firmly. It’s important to say your affirmation with expression, as if you already believed it. Napoleon Hill, a pioneer of self-help literature, said that ‘the mere reading of the words is of no consequence - unless you mix emotion, or feeling with your words’.

I ask clients to do this five times every morning and evening, usually when brushing their teeth. Louise Hay suggests that you should stop and repeat your affirmation a few times whenever you pass in front of a reflective surface.


Reinforcing your affirmation

Put your affirmation where you will see and hear it regularly:

Be creative and if you think of other places, let me know, I’ll add them to this article.





Debbie's Blog

deb180.square2Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.

Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.

For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593. 


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