Affirmations and Positive Thinking

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What are the voices in your head telling you? Are they motivating you with encouragement and pushing you toward your goals or are they putting you down? These negative voices have been ingrained in our minds over time are slowly picking away at your self-esteem. Your inner critic is programming you with negative self-talk producing self-fulling prophecies that hinder your achievements and are setting you up for failure – because “how can you succeed if you’ve already told yourself you’ll fail?”  

 

Luckily you can fight back against these negative thoughts with positive affirmations. It’s time to stop that negative voice and replace it with one that will push you further, try harder, and feel happier.

 

What are Affirmations?

 

The use of affirmations is the practice of using positive thinking to increase self empowerment and motivation. An affirmation is a specific statement that assists you in overcoming negative thoughts and self sabotage. Affirmations and positive thinking has been used to fight against depression, low-self esteem, and other mental health conditions with success. One study found that using positive affirmations “significantly increased scores on self-esteem and decreased depression scores” (1).

 

 

Positive affirmations is one method of positive thinking and changing your mindset. Affirmations might not be for everyone, some see the practice as as too “New Age”, but for others including business leaders and top athletes the practice can bring amazing results, however your results will be based on your own mindset. If you start this practice believing it’s a waste of time – it will be for YOU. On the other hand if you believe it will bring you positive thoughts – it will!

 

Affirmations are exercises for your mind. You are repeatedly working your brain to improve it’s performance and function. Like any type of exercise it will take time, but the results can be truly amazing.

 

Create your own Affirmations

 

Affirmations are flexible and best when they are as personal as possible. Work on creating a list of 10 to 20 positive affirmations covering all the important aspects of your life.

  1. Affirmations should be short, simple, and direct.
  1. Affirmations must be in the present tense “I am…” or present progressive tense “I am becoming…”.
  1. Keep away from negatives. Don’t use statements such as, “I’m NOT perfect”, instead use wording like, “It’s OK to make mistakes.”
  1. Believe in the Statement – You must have some belief in the statement. If you are still far from your goal or the change scares you add a modifier. “I’m a confident person,” might be too far of a stretch for you, so make the change, “I’m becoming a confident person.” Willing and learning also work well. Once you start gaining momentum and getting closer to your goal – remove these additional words and get more direct.

 

How to Practice with Affirmations

Affirmations can be used any time you need to change your thinking be it overall or in a specific situation. Repetition and increased exposure to your new scripts are the key to imprinting them deep into both your active mind and your subconscious.

  1. Repeat Them To Yourself – this can take place when you’re walking, driving, eating,… basically any time you need a quick boost of positive thinking. You can say your affirmations to yourself (in your head), but if you’re alone say them out loud.
  1. Use Cues – Cues allow you to practice affirmations every time you do something, these could be specific affirmations connected to the activity. When walking into the office – “Today I will be…” or looking at the mirror when brushing your teeth – “I’m a good person.”
  1. Post and Read. Print or write out your affirmations and put them somewhere you’ll see them often. Keep the writing large enough you can read it twenty feet away. Want to be more subtle? A sticky note on the mirror or even your computer desktop will work
  1. Write them out. This will work with a single affirmation or a list. The act of writing them out helps cement them in  your mind. Better yet, use an affirmation journal which you can return to and read over.  
  1. Set a reminder. It could be a hourly reminder or set time. When the alarm sounds read or repeat your chosen affirmation for a few minutes.
  1. Record them. Record a list of affirmations and listen to the recording whenever you need a boost. Use 20 or so affirmations and space them about 5 -10 seconds apart as you read them. In the space between repeat them to yourself.
  1. Make Cards – Use small flash cards and write out your affirmations. Whenever you have the chance go through the cards reading each one slow and with conviction.
  1. Take a single Affirmation into Meditation. Repeating the affirmation slowly in a deep relaxed state is will assist in cementing it into your consciousness. It doesn’t only need to be meditation you can do this while exercising or walking.

 

Tips for Success

 

  1. Repetition – it took years to ingrain the negative thoughts and feelings into your mind and the same will be true with the positive thoughts you want to replace them with. The more you actively practice with affirmations the deeper they will be ingrained. You don’t need to use every strategy above, but pick a few ways that resonate with you and get started.
  1. Conviction – I’ve already mentioned that mindset will be crucial in affirmations working for you. Saying affirmations (out loud) with deep conviction and feelings is one of the best ways for strengthening them.
  1. Confirmations – Don’t just say and believe in the affirmation, but look for evidence that it’s true. If your confirmation is “I’m a confident person” – when were you confident today? Look for clues. Better yet write these confirmations down (use the back of the flashcards or affirmation journal). Discovering real life evidence that your affirmations are true and part of your life gives another layer of authority to them.

 

Positive Affirmations to get you Started

 

  1. I’m in control of my life.
  2. I accept the natural ups and down of life.
  3. I am learning to love myself.
  4. I am learning to balance work and play in my life.
  5. I trust my inner wisdom and intuition.
  6. I play a big role in my own career success.
  7. I take the time to show my friends that I care about them.
  8. I deserve whatever good comes my way today.
  9. What I did is in the past and now I can create my future.
  10. I am deeply fulfilled with who I am.

 

Want more – Here are 101 Positive Affirmations for all Parts of your life – coming soon…

 

Conclusion

 

Affirmations are a fantastic way to stop negative self talk and start thinking positive. Take five minutes right now to review the list or write a couple personal affirmations you can work with to start changing your mindset for the future!

 

I’d love you hear if you use affirmations and how they help you achieve your goals. Please share your favorite affirmation with us or leave us a tweet at #KeysToOptimalLiving.

 

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Sources: Psychol Rep. 1996 Aug;79(1):83-91.
Rehearsal of positive self-statements and restructured negative self-statements to increase self-esteem and decrease depression.
Philpot VD1, Bamburg JW.

 

Journal Challenge – The Benefits of a Keeping a Journal

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I’ve kept a journal for years, but never considered it a positive life habit. Instead, I used it as a tool to express ideas, write down lyrics (I used to want to be a songwriter/rock star), but mostly, I used it to vent.  Although this practice was somewhat therapeutic, I was missing out on other major benefits of keeping a journal – advantages I’ve since found and want to share with you.

The Benefits of a Journal

Night Time Routine

sleep, night time routine, routine, night time, prepare for sleep, sleep better, productivityWhat do many high achievers have in common? A productive Night Time Routine that closes their day on a positive note and sets them up for success the following morning. Many people have morning routines due purely to the necessity of time – they are rushed and need to do a number of things before getting out the door. The evening is a little more relaxed (hopefully), but just as important. It’s time you began an evening routine that allows you to unwind, prepares you for a great night’s sleep, and gives you a head start on tomorrow.

 

A Night Time Routine

 

First a little digression – Be kind to your future self. It’s important to understand we only have a finite amount of mental energy. It is used up on every little decision we make throughout the day and once it’s gone, your motivation and discipline suffers. After a long day there isn’t much gas left in the tank, which is why once you sit down in front of the television it’s hard to get up and do anything else after. Why do I mention the concept of Mental Energy? Because by making your nighttime rituals into a habit or routine, you can just run on autopilot and still be productive.

 

With this said…a word of warning! Here are just of few of the distractions that can lead you astray and waste the night away.

 

 

Night Time Traps

 

1. Keep the Television Off – I said it above and I’ll say it again. Beware the TV! Think you’ll only watch one episode and then go to bed? Think again.

 

2. Beware the Internet – Ok, I really hope you aren’t reading this at night. It is so easy to get caught in the loop of Youtube videos or mindless internet surfing and then you look at the clock. Hours have gone by and really nothing has been accomplished.

 

3. Learn to Say No – Every time you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to something else. During the week, social invitations come up. I often have to force myself to say no. Yes, they could be fun, but what are your goals? This point can go beyond social situations and even include work. I was moonlighting in another job for a little extra cash. The problem was that I was so tired the next day, it put me behind in my priority work.

 

Tips for a Productive Night Routine

 

You will notice the tips that follow for a great Night Routine complement your morning routine because these two routines work together. So, with mental energy in mind, let’s look at what can be done. The end goal is calming yourself for sleep and preparing for the next day.

 

Unplug an hour before bed – stop looking at screens of any kind. This includes computers, televisions, phones, etc. If you use your smartphone as your alarm clock turn it on Airplane Mode – Signals can affect sleep, but even on silent the screen lighting up every time you get an email or text can affect your sleep.

 

Plan for Tomorrow – Go over what you accomplished today and make a short list of what you want to do tomorrow. This will allow you to wake up and know exactly what to do. Waking up with purpose will help you get out of bed. This also helps keep your mind obsessing all night over what needs to be done. Write it and forget it. Limit yourself to writing down only the priorities.

 

Journal – I found the best journal was a gratitude journal. The other option is to write what you accomplished, which could complement your morning entry of “What I hope to accomplish today” or be like Ben Franklin and ask, “What good did I do today?”. Presently I’ve been using the Five Minute Journal, which is a journal with a number of prompts to keep you focused.

 

Clean your Desk – Once you’ve completed the points above it is time to clean house. This will allow you to start fresh the next morning clear of distraction.

 

Give your future self a head start – This is the time to use up any remaining mental energy you have left.
a. Prepare the Coffee machine.
b. Layout your clothes for tomorrow – This can include your workout clothes or running gear.
c. Make lunches and even think about dinner the next night.
d. Pack up your briefcase / backpack, or whatever else you need.

 

Drink a little water – You can get dehydrated during the night, so drink a little water and have a cup by your bed to throw back when you get up.

 

Hygiene Needs – This is the normal stuff washing your face, brushing your teeth, and flossing. If you’re a man – shaving at night will save you some time in the morning.

 

***Important Note – all the above should be done outside of your bed. Your bed is for two things, sleeping and sex (yes I said it). Reading in bed is fine, but do the other activities (making lists and journal writing) somewhere else. Our minds connect activity with locations – if you write in bed your mind will associate bed with writing. Bed is not for writing – bed is for sleep!

 

Calm your mind – this can take the form of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, or simple stretching. You are preparing your body for rest and quieting your mind.

 

Enjoy a quiet activity – This can take the form of reading (remember no television), listening to music (keep it mellow), or something else that relaxes you. The goal here is not to entertain you, but to relax you a little further, until you’re tired.

 

Turn out the Light – It needs to be said. If you follow all the tips, but stay up all night reading, you won’t get the results you’re looking for. Have a designated time to turn off the light.

 

Don’t Forget to Set Your Alarm – Because after a deep sleep you’ll be waking up early to conquer the day!

 

What do you do in your Night Time Routine? I’d love to hear the tips or practices that work for you. Please comment below or join the conversation at .

 

The Gratitude Challenge

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Increasing Happiness is all the rage and a key ingredient to this contentment is gratitude. A quick definition of Gratitude is simply being thankful, but I wanted to uncover what specific benefits are provided when actively practicing gratitude and how to turn that practice into a new positive habit. In my own life I have the tendency to not look on the bright side or notice all the wonderful things around me, so I dug deeper into gratitude and I’m happy I did.

How To Be More Thankful

The Walk Challenge – The Benefits of Walking

walk, walking, exercise, calories from walking, walking for exercise, walking stress, challenge, step challengeSpring is here. Finally we can escape the confines of our home and get back outside where we belong. After months of hibernation, we need to shake off some of the cobwebs and start moving. What better way to start then by taking a walk! It wasn’t too long ago (before all our times I’m sure), that if you wanted to get anywhere you walked.  Nowadays, many people (including myself), drive nearly everywhere  (embarrassingly enough, even to a mailbox a mere hundred yards away).  Furthermore, as many of us are chained to a desk, our chances to be active are slim… unless we change our habits!

 

The Walk Challenge – Get outside and walk for 20 minutes everyday for 30 days!

 

That’s it!!  Seems quite simple… but you may have some questions.

 

  1. But it’s raining out? – Wear a rain jacket or use an umbrella.  Rain can feel energizing!
  2. But it’s dark? – Bring a flashlight, go with somebody, stay off the roads.
  3. I don’t have time! – Yes you do…turn off the television.
  4. But I work all day! – Go on your lunch break, it’s why the challenge only twenty minutes.

 

One more rule – The walk NEEDS to be outside – sorry no treadmills.

 

I can keep going, but I think you get the point.  There will be a hundred reasons not to do something – the key is to do it anyway.

 

Still not convinced? 

 

The Benefits of Walking

 

Exercise – Probably the first thing to pop in your head.  A daily walk gets your heart pumping and body moving.  According to ShapeSense.com a person weighing 175 pounds will burn 105 calories per 20 minutes.

 

Social/Family Time – In a hectic lifestyle, taking a break to walk with your significant other or kids is a great time to talk about your day, while getting fresh air and exercise.

 

Alone Time – As much as I love walking with my wife and kids, I sometimes appreciate the alone time. I do some of my best thinking, be it personal problems or creative projects while on walks.

 

Travel – Yes, the actual reason we have legs to get from Point A to Point B. If the option is there for you use it – walk to the store or work.

 

 

This is more than just a walk!

 

What are we getting out of this? Exercise is an important element in this challenge, but it isn’t the only one.  I encourage you to keep a journal and explore how this small change is affecting your life. It takes time to notice any change, which is why I’m going to ask you to commit to the full 30 days. Here are some questions to ask yourself or observations to look for:

 

  1. How do you feel before the walk and after the walk?
  2. Do you look forward to the walk or look forward to it being completed?
  3. As the month progresses, are you going further, taking different routes?
  4. Have you experimented with your walk times?  Does a certain time of day make you feel better?  ie. In the morning to wake you up or after work to unwind.

 

Tips for a Successful Walk Challenge

 

Do it When You Wake Up – If you can, try walking first thing in the morning to get you started. Have everything ready the night before. It will be so easy to sleep in, but you’ve committed to the challenge so get up. If this is a problem try the 6AM Wake Up Challenge.

 

Things in life will pop up – Don’t be hard on yourself, but still try to get the time in. This may mean two ten minute walks during a busy day,  just keep making progress – no matter how small.

 

Go outside – Part of the goal of this is to get fresh air, so no treadmills! Which is why I included the rule. Walking on a treadmill while watching tv will provide different results than what we want. It’s not to say the other is wrong – just not what we are striving for here.  This site is about maximizing gains, which is why we are exercising while getting fresh air (the outdoors has a calming effect), plus gaining a little vitamin D.

 

Bonus Section

 

All I used for my walking challenge was a pair of shoes and a clock to ensure I did my twenty minutes. So assuming everyone has shoes, this challenge is free.  A new trend is the Quantitative Life – measurement means improvement! There are many gadgets and products available if you are looking to keep track of your steps. Again, these aren’t necessary, but they can add a layer of fun to the challenge if you’re into this type of thing.

 

  1. Pedometer – a simple old school device that counts your steps.
  2. Fitbit – a pedometer on steroids measuring everything from steps taken, distance traveled, calories burned, stairs climbed, and the amount of minutes being active. My wife is a huge fan.
  3. Smart Phone Apps – rating these are beyond the scope of this article. From a quick search using “Pedometer Free” – I found a large number of free apps – some have extra features for a small price.

 

Feel free to use any of the above to “beef” up your challenge by counting steps instead of setting a twenty minute minimum time frame. That’s why these challenge are so great – you can tailor them specifically to your needs.

 

My Results of the 30 Day Walk Challenge

 

I’ve always enjoyed taking walks for all the benefits listed above, but often I never had the time. Focusing on this challenge made me accountable to making my walk a priority, and I’m glad I did. The challenge only calls for a 20 minute walk, but I found that once I started I usually went for much longer. I quickly came to look forward to my time walking. I tried taking my walks at different times of the day (either first thing in the morning, at lunch, or in the evening) and observed that my walk at lunch personally gave me the biggest reward. It gave a natural separation to my day, let me turn off my mind to recharge the thinking tank, and woke me up for the afternoon. Plus, as a writer I found I was usually deep in thought most of the walk and was at my creative best. The biggest result I found was an overall sense of calm after even a few days of walking I felt less stressed and more relaxed.

 

Each challenge on this website is designed to create a new positive habit, but also as a trial run. In the big scheme of things 30 days isn’t a long time, but long enough for you to see a result and ask yourself if this change is worth keeping. My experience with this challenge was positive and I’ll continue my daily walks.

 

How did The Walk Challenge work for you? I’d love to hear your results – Please comment below or join the conversation on Twitter at #KeysToOptimalLiving.

 

 

 

6 AM Challenge – The Benefits of Waking Up Early

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Welcome to the 6 AM Challenge discovering the benefits of waking up early. I have already noted this site is one of exploration, so what better way to test practical strategies than to conduct a new life challenge to learn how to wake up early in the morning. In 2014, a big personal goal is to increase my productivity. A great place to start is to change my morning routine by waking up earlier.

How to Wake Up Early!