Do affirmations really work?

The simple answer is a resounding, YES!

I was first introduced to affirmations about 10 years ago when I read Shakti Gawain’s book, ‘Creative Visualisation’.  An affirmation is simply a sentence that outlines a goal you would like to realise. Over the years I have tried many different affirmation techniques, from repeating them in the mirror while I look at myself, to having post it notes all over the house. If you are ambling along your own self development journey you will know that fundamentally you have to unearth your self limiting beliefs and work on those, as well as a myriad of other facets of your being, to enable you to begin peeling back the layers of the onion, so to speak.

However, affirmations, even if you aren’t self aware, can work and you could think of as being based loosely on the ‘fake it until you make it’ model. The key, as with most things in life, is of course persistency and consistency. Doing them every now and then and switching up what affirmations you do at a rate of knots won’t get you anywhere.

The most powerful and successful affirmation technique I have ever come across, I learned while listening to one of my very first Tim Ferriss podcasts. Tim was interviewing Scott Adams, the creator of the famous Dilbert cartoon. During the interview, Scott divulged that he had began doing this affirmation technique and said that it was what was responsible for making his dream to become a cartoonist come true and what ultimately led to Dilbert becoming a reality. Wow!

The technique is quite simple, but prescriptive and remember, you must persist and be consistent. Do it daily and keep the affirmation the same until it has been realised.

Most people have many goals, or things they wish to bring about in their lives, but there will be one that really stands out for you. That’s the one you choose to start with. Simply write your affirmation down in a sentence. This is the actual one that Scott Adams used:

“I Scott Adams will become a syndicated cartoonist.”

You write that down 15 times each day. That’s it. A little bit like writing lines for being naughty at school, but in this case the outcome is a much greater one! You can see that if your goal is 3 sentences long you will be writing for some time. I have a notebook I keep just for affirmations and 15 lines fills half the page. Just write your affirmation out each day. The way that this works is somewhat of a phenomenon and definitely one of those situations where you just have faith and trust the flow. The magic just happens and before you know it, synchronicities occur and things start to happen in the way you want them to. At first you might not even realise it, but at some point it will dawn on you that your affirmations are working. It is quite unbelievable how it can happen.

There are lots of theories as to why this works. My view is that writing it down brings it to reality and while you are writing, you begin to imagine it and thus you create the feeling to generate the energy and action for conscious creation to work. You can read what Scott Adams himself has to say about it here.

I have tried and tested lots of different ways to do affirmations and this is by far the best – I mean it is the best, because it works!

The Tim Ferriss interview with Scott Adams is podcast 106 on Tim’s blog, which you can find here.

In addition to this, I will sometimes recite affirmations to myself while swimming. I am mindful during swimming, being in the present moment, but at the same time reciting my affirmations. It is such a great time to do it because that 30 minutes would otherwise be spent thinking about something that had happened yesterday or figuring something else out that has not happened yet. I am always aiming to be mindful of course, but my mind wanders. By reciting affirmations, I am almost performing a moving meditation, with the affirmation as my mantra. I will swim a length and repeat my affirmation to myself – in my head of course because otherwise I would be taking on water – then I might swim back and recite my Buddhist mantra (OM MANI PADME HUM) and then the next lap practise loving kindness. If you have read my other blog posts, you will know that I am a huge advocate of loving kindness meditation and practise it as much as I can. These to me are all affirmations and during exercise is the perfect time to repeat them. Try it yourself.

 

Remember, be sure to write your affirmation down each day 15 times and expect great things…

 

[This photo was taken under a beautiful blue early morning San Francisco sky, at the top of Lyon Street steps]

 

 

Is age really just a number?

I used to say that often; age is just a number. Even into my early forties, when people would stress over putting on weight, finding wrinkles and everything heading south, permanently and not just for winter, I’d maintain my stance on it.  I have never felt my age and certainly never looked it either. I was going to be one of the lucky ones I thought. I am not sure who I was kidding. Whether I actually believed I was going to continue to look 35 until I reached 70 or not, honestly, that was my belief, age is definitely just a number.

That was until I started reaching mid forties. I am just about to head over the middle hill, but I would say about a year ago I really started noticing changes that made me realise that age may indeed just be a number but that it most definitely affects what is going on in your body, no matter what you do about it.  That may seem obvious, but I don’t think until you begin to experience it, you truly understand it. The dilemma you have then is whether to go against it or to work with it. I chose the latter.

What is Healthy?

I wasn’t always this healthy, and I do still enjoy chocolate, champagne from time to time and other things that you wouldn’t deem necessarily healthy. The difference is I just do the healthy stuff most of the time.

I practise Ashtanga yoga 5-6 times a week and swim 3-4. I walk for 40 minutes each morning and have a strict vegetarian, healthy diet. I try to keep drinking to a minimum and go through long phases of not drinking. If you saw my life before 12 years ago you would understand why, but even with all that you cannot defy your age – well not unless you take matters into surgical hands and even then I don’t think the outcome is necessarily that you make yourself look younger.

In my experience there are 5 keys to looking and feeling healthy:

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise
  3. Water
  4. Sleep
  5. Lifestyle

I try to apply the 80/20 rule to my life. I would say some of the time I am at 90/10, but if I can maintain 80/20 it’s a good balance. Alcohol, which falls under lifestyle, plays a massive part in that 80/20 and affects the other areas. When you drink alcohol you are less likely to exercise, more likely to make unhealthy food choices and your sleep suffers. Overall you will look and feel far less healthy than if you hadn’t drank. Alcohol affects people in different ways but as you get older your ability to bounce back from a night out drinking is far less than it was when you were in your early thirties. Your body’s ability to deal with the alcohol in terms of the effects on other parts of your system, like your skin for example, is much slower than when you were younger too.

So if you can apply the 80/20 rule to your life you are giving yourself a good chance of looking and feeling your best most of the time.

Ageing

Despite this, most people, particularly women, will begin to look their age by their mid forties. For me it hasn’t so much happened in my body as it has my face. The plumpness of your skin plays such a huge part in your appearance. As you age the degeneration of collagen in your skin, which is responsible for its fullness and plumpness, means a decline in the elasticity of your skin. Wrinkles appear! In addition the fatty layer beneath the skin thins and this loss of volume causes the skin to sag.

We are all different and everyone will experience their own ageing issues, whether it be to the face, body or both. Inevitably, it will gradually take place all over, but where you notice it at first and what bothers you, will differ from one person to the next.

Meditation & Mindfulness for Ageing

Practising yoga in itself is an antidote because the practice of yoga is about self enquiry, self awareness and self acceptance. Ultimately, I believe practising meditation and mindfulness will go a long way in helping self acceptance of the ageing process and truly restoring or instilling the belief that age is just a number. When you are happy with what is, it doesn’t matter how old you are!

Buddhism teaches us that life is suffering. As humans we just enjoy suffering. We suffer because don’t have something and when we do, we suffer because it doesn’t remain. Life is in a constant state of flux and that obviously also applies to us. It doesn’t matter that age is just a natural part of life, when you are experiencing it, living that truth isn’t always easy and inevitably we can suffer. Buddhism does, however, teach us (thankfully) the path through and out of suffering, or at the very least teaches us how to ease suffering.

Meditation and mindfulness is that path. Self acceptance comes from loving and liking ourselves and from being at peace with who we are and importantly, what is, which includes the changes due to ageing that are going on within our body.

I don’t buy into hormones. I know that is a ridiculous statement and my sister laughs at me all the time for saying it. I know for a fact, scientifically speaking, my body goes through hormonal changes each month and that at my age (I wish that WordPress would allow me to insert the rolling eyes emoji here) there are other hormonal changes taking place at a frenetic rate. I can feel them often and my emotions are sometimes affected. Yet still I refuse to believe it. I know it, I cannot argue my way out of it, but I am not having any of it. I don’t buy into hormones and I just don’t take any notice of them.

I mention hormones because despite my irrational view, and my refusal to take them into any account, they may play as big a part of ageing for you as your face and body appearance changing.

The practice of meditation and mindfulness enables you to simply notice what you feel, see or think.  Rather than acting on it, you are noticing it as if a silent watcher removed from who you are. Instead of being carried along with your thoughts and feelings you are noticing them and just as you breathe in and out, you are simply letting them come and letting them go. Over time this mindfulness practice enables you to realise – from within, that age is a natural process, that what is going on within your body is going to happen whether you are agreeable and happy about it or not. Logically we would not choose to suffer, but (as my hormone theory attests) we aren’t always logical. We aren’t thinking about the natural ageing process when our eyelids look droopy or our face has more wrinkles that simply aren’t facial expressions anymore!

Through the practice of mindfulness we begin to see the ‘is-ness’ of it all and once that occurs, we can grow to accept ourselves. We can like and love ourselves despite ageing and in fact we can like and ourselves because of it!  The more you like yourself as a person the more accepting you will be. There is no hard and fast rule as to how long this process takes. Meditation and mindfulness have no time schedule. Practice consistently and the results will just come, quite subtly at first. As a caveat it is also a fact that when you are happy it appears on your face.  When you are worried and stressed your face tells the tale. So not only will you feel happiness and peace from within, but you will be wearing it too. Happiness is better than any wrinkle cream out there!

Something else I have found to carry within it great power, is the act of focusing on others, rather than yourself. Ageing is one of those things that you can easily become obsessed about. If you take your focus away yourself and wish others well, you will notice it comes back around ten fold. Try the loving kindness meditation for a month and see the difference – it is quite staggering what this does to your life.

When you live in the moment there is no room for worrying over what you cannot control, of what is. Age is just a number.

 

 

[This fabulous image is a ZintenZ postcard available to purchase from Things That Make you Feel Good]

Practice loving kindness

I learnt this while reading Tim Ferriss’ book, Tools of Titans. In it there is a chapter on Chade Meng Tan – have a read on him at Wikipedia  – such a great dude. I later read his book Joy on Demand. He talks about the benefits of practising loving kindness and specifically of one woman who had the happiest day in 7 years after just practising a few seconds of what he suggested the following day.

Aside from recommending you read Joy on Demand, I highly recommend practising loving kindness. It blows my mind how much this works. Of course the intention isn’t to benefit yourself, but others – even so, you’ll reap the benefits by default and whichever way you look at it, we all want to be happy right?

I usually practice this before I go to bed, but Meng suggests you do it for 10 seconds (it probably takes less than that) on the hour every hour while at work.

Here’s what you do…

Pick out two random people who walk by you at work at that particular moment and wish for them to be happy. That’s it. Seriously. Wish for the person you choose to be happy. Truly wish that for them. If you don’t do this at work you can try it for someone you know. If you struggle wishing others to be happy then you actually need this more than anything, but starting out with someone you know will make it easier.

That’s it.

Try it, on the hour, every hour, tomorrow. Choose a random couple of people and individually wish for them to be happy. Think in your mind as you look at that person, “I wish for you to be happy.” It is actually surprising how great this makes you feel, but at the end of the day just see for yourself…..and then do it every day and the end of that week see how you feel.

Tim Ferriss (the master experimenter himself) said that he tried it for a month and could not believe the difference in his happiness level. This was the only thing he had done differently – he questioned it because of the simplicity of the practice.

So, the perfect way to end this little ditty is just that, I wish for you to be happy!

 

[I don’t know who to credit this beautiful serene image to….I found it on Facebook and it is widely used, so if you know, please drop me a comment and I will add a credit, thank you.]