We’ve all heard about positive affirmations as a new mental health trend. Positive affirmations are spoken words that aim to help us manifest what we most want out of life. The idea is that we can challenge negative assumptions and beliefs, or even speak what we want into existence.
There is some science behind affirming ourselves. For example, in a recent study researchers found that positive affirmations activated key parts in the brain that are important for self-evaluation. In other words, affirmations helped increase the value we see in ourselves, especially when these affirmations matched with our personal values (what we want out of life).
However, some affirmations can feel hokey or disingenuous. You may have heard affirmations like “today I am brimming with energy” or “I have been given endless talents.” When you’re feeling depressed or anxious, stating affirmations that feel too far from how you feel can be like rubbing salt in an open wound. Ultimately, affirmations won’t be helpful to you unless you believe them.
In the cognitive-behavioral model of therapy (CBT), there is a particular emphasis on changing thoughts and behaviors in order to change the way we feel. A common misconception of this type of therapy is that it teaches you to simply “think positively.” This is not the case. In CBT, people are taught to make thoughts realistic, believable, and helpful, rather than overly positive. For example, take the thought, “I don’t have any friends.” If we flip that and say “I have lots of friends who love me,” it can sometimes feel too challenging to believe. It is easier to make our thoughts more realistic by providing facts, such as “Yesterday a friend asked me to go to lunch so I probably have more support than I think.”
From these examples, we learn that the key is to make self-statements realistic and believable, rather than simply overly positive.
Affirmations should also be focused on the present moment, rather than future-oriented or past-focused. Anxious thoughts typically reside in the past or future (for example, “what if”-type thoughts), whereas grounding ourselves in the present moment is helpful for calm. For this reason, keep affirmations focused on the here and now.
Affirmations for dancers
Dance as a craft is narrowly focused on achieving perfection. This, paired with other factors, make dancers vulnerable to negative beliefs, harmful perfectionism, and mental health concerns.
As a dancer, you may benefit from repeating affirmations that challenge negative beliefs, keep your mind present-focused, and challenge perfectionism.
Here is a list of daily affirmations, grounded in scientific principles, for dancers.
I’m doing the best I can with the resources I have, and that’s enough.
I grow and learn with my mistakes.
My art is enough.
Today I will connect with people I love.
I have the ability to be flexible and take each moment as it comes.
I will connect with the intrinsic meaning of my art, rather than worrying about aesthetics.
I am enough, for simply being me.
I will practice in a way that pushes towards my limits, while honoring my body.
I will approach my life in a non-perfectionistic way today.
I am brave even when I am scared.
To struggle is to be human. I’m not alone in that.
I can be courageous today by simply showing up.
My breath is an anchor for calm.
My art is part of who I am, but not all I am.
I am worthy of rest and healing for my mind, body, and spirit.
I have the ability to connect with my strengths.
Today I will give myself permission to simply be myself.
I am a human being with flaws, and I’m doing my very best with the information I have.
Ultimately, positive affirmations can be helpful for dancers when used effectively. Statements are most helpful when they are realistic and present-focused. You can even create your own affirmations using these guidelines.
Add positive affirmations to your daily routine to challenge perfectionism and negative beliefs, and see how they can transform how you feel. Dr. Marina Harris is a specialist in eating disorders, sport psychology, trauma-informed care, and mindfulness. She currently works as a fellow at the University of North Carolina Center of Excellence for Eating Disorders (CEED) and the Carolina Athletics Mental Health and Performance Program. She also works to make mental health information more accessible through writing. Check out her blog, Letters From Your Therapist, on Psychology Today, or her website, www.drmarinaharris.com.
This blog is not medical advice. If you are in need of support in regards to mental health please visit our resources page https://www.wearemindingthegap.org/resources