We’ve reached the final topic in this series, which Harvard terms positive thinking. Before I delve into this topic, I want to introduce basic cognitive-behavioral theory. The premise of this theory is that the relationship between cognition (which includes thinking, judging, reasoning, perceiving, processing, analyzing, synthesizing, imagining, etc.) and behavior is linear. The relationship is as follows:


Thoughts –> Emotions –> Behavior


From this paradigm, one can deduce that for every behavior there is a corresponding and logically derived thought that led to it. If we take it one step farther, that means that if the thought were different, then the resulting behavior would correspond to this thought and would be different than the behavior with another thought motivator. Cognitive-behavioral theory is the basis for cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Affirmations are but one of many therapeutic techniques within cognitive-behavioral therapy.


I like affirmations because it is particularly useful in everyday life, in that one does not need to be with a psychologist or psychiatrist in order to practice it. At its essence, an affirmation is an encouraging, non-judgmental statement from the self to the self. This doesn’t mean that these statements need to be out loud; no usage of the vocal cords is required at all. But it can be, if you wish it, if it works for you. I often see Olympic athletes whisper to themselves before their performance; I imagine that these are their affirmations. For example, here is Usain Bolt at the London 2012 Olympics.


Examples of affirmations are, “I am strong,” or “I am fast,” or “I am ready.” Notice that these are positive affirmations; they are sentences that are structured to present what is, rather than what is not. For comparison, “I am not slow” is an example of a negative affirmation. Observe the difference in feelings elicited from that versus “I am fast.” Essentially, they mean the same thing, but it feels so different. Remember how feelings lead to behavior? How do you think you would act if you thought, “I am not slow”? How would you perform if, instead, you thought, “I am fast”?


Do you have an affirmation? Share in the comments or tell me at your next appointment.


That’s all, folks! For this series, at least. If you have ideas for other topics, do let me know.

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