Affirmations are statements that reflect our views of who we are and what we want. They can be positive or negative. They influence our feelings and thoughts — and what actually happens in our lives.

Example: I grew up in an abusive family. As a child, I believed that it was natural for men to beat women. As I went though life, I always attracted men who abused me. It wasn’t until I learned about self-esteem and self-worth that I let go of that pattern of thinking. As a result, I started to attract men who valued and respected me.

Positive affirmations don’t miraculously create a new reality — but they do open the mental channels that can allow good things to happen. People who are happy and self-confident welcome good things into their lives. They attract positive people. They create their own opportunities. Here’s how…

  • Turn a negative into a positive. Statements such as, “I don’t want to be fat,” “I don’t like this relationship” or “I don’t want to be unhappy” are actually negative affirmations. Dwelling on things that we don’t want merely creates more mental space for those things to thrive.When delivered as positive affirmations, the statements above become “I am slender,” “I have a wonderful new relationship” and “I am happy.”
  • Train yourself. Most of us have trained ourselves to be self-critical. We can just as easily train ourselves to be accepting.Exercise: For the next month, say a few hundred times a day, “I approve of myself.” Repeat it out loud or to yourself when you’re in the shower, walking to the mailbox, etc.

    At first, you’ll probably notice that repeating this mantra brings up opposite feelings. You’ll find yourself thinking, I don’t believe it or Saying this makes me feel silly.

    These are resistance thoughts. Let them pass through your mind. They have no power unless you choose to believe them. Counter them with the original mantra I approve of myself. Your thinking will start to change.

  • Look in the mirror every morning and say, “I really love you.” Do this — and use your name. The universe loves gratitude and appreciation. Appreciating yourself means appreciating the universe.Imagine that you give someone a gift. If that person is grateful and appreciative, you want to give him/her more presents. But if he is negative about it and says something like, “I don’t like the color,” you won’t want to be so generous again.

    When you love yourself, you’re thanking the universe for the wonderful gift that is you — and more gifts will come your way.

  • Say “thank you.” I say “thank you” to the universe at least a dozen times a day — when I see the beauty of a tree, a breathtaking sunset, etc. The more grateful you are for the good things in your life, the more life gives you to appreciate.If you want a joyous life, you must think joyous thoughts. Example: Some people notice that it’s raining and say, “What a lousy day.” It’s not a lousy day. It’s merely a wet day. There are lots of good things to do on rainy days. Why greet it with despair?
  • Eliminate “should” thinking. Many people force themselves to do things that they dislike, because someone (often a parent) said they should do them — go to a certain school, become a lawyer, marry a particular person, etc.Better: Replace “should” with “could.” The word “could” means that you have choices… that you can follow your own judgment and listen to your instincts.

    Exercise: Write the phrase “I should” at the top of a piece of paper, followed by five or six ways to finish the sentence. Examples: “I should be thin”… “I should be smarter”… “I should have more money now.” You’ll probably find that most of the items reflect your own fears and imagined limitations.

    Now, instead of writing “I should,” substitute it with, “If I really wanted to, I could… ” Examples: “If I really wanted to, I could be thin”… “If I really wanted to, I could be smarter”… “If I really wanted to, I could have more money now.”

  • Tell yourself it’s easy. Several times a day, tell yourself how easy it is to do something. “It’s easy to have good friends”… “It’s easy to find a job I love”… “It’s easy to bring good into my life.”This type of affirmation is one of the simplest — and most powerful. We tend to think that things are much more difficult than they really are. The fear of difficulty is really the fear of trying, which keeps us from moving forward.
  • Learn from failure. The fear of failure can be paralyzing. How many times have you been too afraid to try something new?We encourage children when they’re learning to walk. Every tiny step is a success! Yet we’re not so kind to ourselves. We tell ourselves that we’re clumsy or stupid… that our initial, halting steps are a failure.

    Not true. Every experience that we have is a learning experience. We get better with practice… discover new strengths… and find opportunities.

    Exercise: Several times a day, use “success affirmations.” Say things such as, “Everything I touch is a success”… “I am blessed beyond my fondest dreams”… and “Golden opportunities are everywhere for me.”

    Much of life is a rehearsal, a time to make mistakes, try new approaches and learn how to make things better. Everything brings us closer to success.

  • Forgive others and yourself. We give away our power when we harbor anger toward people and events from the past. Maybe you had an unhappy childhood… an abusive spouse… a job that didn’t work out. Let it all go.Dwelling on old hurts never makes people happy. Worse, it hampers the ability to enjoy the future because you stop believing that you — and only you — can make things better.

    Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting or condoning bad behavior. The goal is to free yourself from negativity.

    Exercise: Sit with your eyes closed and say, “The person I need to forgive is so-and-so, and I forgive him/her.” Repeat it over and over for five to 10 minutes. Then turn your attention inward and take a minute or two to forgive yourself for things you’ve done.

    Repeat this exercise at least once a week. Do it for every injustice or hurt that you still feel. You’ll come to realize that the past doesn’t control your present… and that you have the inner strength to make yourself happy.