How Repeating A Single, Simple Phrase Can Rewire Your Brain For The Better
Experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000 and 80,000 thoughts a day -- and a lot of them are the same negative thoughts we had the day before.
After a while, we start believing those negative thoughts as truth -- which isn't great for our mental health.
But what if we flipped that thought pattern on its head and replaced the negative thoughts with positive ones?
That's the theory behind 'positive affirmations', a popular technique used in a type of psychotherapy called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
"The whole concept behind CBT is to replace a person's existing thoughts that may be untrue and detrimental to their own mental health with ones that affirm their self-worth in a positive way," Lysn psychologist Noosha Anzab told 10 daily.
Simply put, it's swapping the "I can't" to "I can." Over and over and over again.
After a while, these positive affirmations can actually alter the pathways in your brain for the better.
Repeat after us
Without getting too scientific, some studies have shown that when we reflect on core values that have something to do with our future, certain parts of our brain -- the parts that are self-processed and are in charge of our valuation systems -- start whirring away.
This activity shows us that our brains can, in fact, create change and respond to the positive things we tell it, Anzab said.
Artist and Instagram star Martina Martian is all too familiar with the power of positive affirmations.
The Sydneysider has been producing colourful illustrations featuring empowering quote and messages -- everything from "You've got this" to "Dream big!" -- for several years.
It started as a form of self-care for the 23-year-old but her crafty creations are now inspiring her 140 thousand or so followers on Instagram and have even caught the eye of celebs such as Gigi Hadid.
She's now haberdashery chain Spotlight's 'Make It Month' ambassador -- as she helps make DIY art appealing to millennials while spreading positive affirmations.
"It's such a wonderful feeling when people tell me my work resonated with them and share their story with me," she told 10 daily.
Positive affirmation 101
So, you're ready to get started?
First of all, consistency and repetition are key to seeing results, according to Anzab.
"Most people will definitely need to practice this on a daily basis, whether it's through repeating a positive phrase to themselves every morning or writing it down," she said.
You can even try something she calls "mirror work" where you look yourself in the eye while saying your affirmation.
What you write and repeat is really up to you -- it just has to be meaningful and positive.
Martian's art features her own quotes and messages that she jots down in her journal or on her phone when she's on the go. The act of writing her thoughts down is key as it helps make that affirmation "more real" to her.
Sharing her work online takes it one step further -- "it means I'm really trying to live it and believe in it, and hope it resonates with other people too," she said.
World-renowned therapist Marisa Peer gets her clients to scrawl the phrase "I am enough" on their mirrors and repeat it to themselves every day.
How long will it take to actually believe what you’re saying is true, you ask?
This is different for everyone and it depends on where you're at at the time, explained Anzab.
"Some people have a really low self-image which can take a lot of time to correct, and it is normally an ongoing process," she said.
You're literally trying to train your brain into believing what you’re saying and stopping that negative inner voice -- and this takes time, so don't expect to see results overnight. It's more likely to take weeks or months of dedicated self-work.
The good news is that "anyone and everyone" can do it -- particularly those who are anxious, depressed and have a negative outlook on life, according to Anzab.
Feature image: Instagram/@marisapeertherapy.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.