The fall semester has come to an end, giving college students a well needed break from exams and research papers. While the holiday season is here and many students are relieved to be back home with family and friends, the thought of being asked about final grades at family holiday parties linger in the back of their minds. “How did your semester go?” or “What classes are you taking in the spring?” are questions that bring unwanted stress to many. December graduates with unknown destinations cringe at the thought of being asked “what’s next.” This can cause thoughts that push students into rushing to the next semester without taking time to relax and reflect on the positive aspects of the present. Despite the struggles of the semester and the all-nighters pulled during finals week, how can you affirm your successes throughout the past few months instead of focusing on the negatives?
Being able to reflect on our successes can be challenging for some, especially when there is constant pressure to perform well at the higher level. We tend to draw our attention to negative results, such as the amount of missed questions on a final exam or how we could have worked harder to achieve an A in a class rather than a B. Although there is always room for improvement, this does not mean that we have to dwell on what went wrong. Acknowledging that you made it through a semester of school is the starting point for affirming your successes! As mentioned in our previous blog, mindfulness can play a role in improving our emotional wellness and overall self-awareness. Through mindful reflection on accomplishments, one can see a more positive aspect of themselves. Knowing ways to practice daily mindfulness helps with reflection, but another factor is improving your use of positive self-affirmations.
So, what exactly is a positive self-affirmation? Self-affirmations are acts or statements that help to confirm one’s self-worth, giving you a broader view of yourself (Cascio et al., 2016). They are helpful to reduce the effects of negative emotions and can also buffer stress (Creswell, Dutcher, Klein, Harris, & Levine, 2013). Positive self-affirmations have also been shown to increase feelings of self-compassion towards oneself (Lindsay & Creswell, 2014). Telling yourself positive statements such as, “I accept that I have done my best” or “I believe in myself”, can help you overcome negative self-thoughts while showing love and compassion towards yourself. Stressors are a threat to your self-worth and how you respond to stress is most important. Following stressful events, we tend to restore balance in our psychological health by using self-affirmations (Taylor & Sherman, 2008). This helps motivate you to ignore the negative sabotage that the stressors bring and helps you deal with the threat in a positive way. Being aware of what positive self-affirmations are and what they can do can result in you using them to promote positive reflection.
We know it’s not always rainbows, butterflies, and happy days, but when you utilize mindfulness and positive affirmations, you draw your focus away from the negative outcomes of a situation. Focusing solely on negative outcomes can lead us into a negative downward spiral where we only pay attention to negative thoughts which can impact our motivation and self-esteem greatly. Applying positive self-affirmations helps to create higher self-worth and higher self-esteem. Using this mindset and skill repeatedly increases your belief in your successes over your failures.
Positive self-statements can aid in motivation and provide instruction and energy towards completing your goals. Live mindfully in the moment to extend the positive rewards from self-affirmations. Through mindful reflective practices such as, meditation or triple threat breathing, you can embrace the present moment while releasing stress from any negative thoughts. The affirmations can then bring self-positivity and enhance your emotional wellness.
Although it is easy to let the pressure of being successful in school, work, and life interrupt your ability to use positive self-affirmations, we at TOPPS encourage you to steer away from the negativity. Use your own judgment to determine when you need affirmations for yourself. If you find it difficult to use positive self-affirmations to reflect on your successes rather than failures, one of our providers may be able to help. Our website gives more information about our services. We hope you enjoy your holiday break and congratulations to those that recently graduated!
Cascio, C. N., O’Donnell, M. B., Tinney, F. J., Lieberman, M. D., Taylor, S. E., Strecher, V. J., & Falk, E. B. (2016). Self-Affirmation Activates Brain Systems Associated with Self-Related Processing and Reward and is Reinforced by Future Orientation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(4), 621–629. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814782/
Creswell, J. D., Dutcher, J. M., Klein, W. M. P., Harris, P. R., & Levine, J. M. (2013) Self-Affirmation Improves Problem-Solving under Stress. Plos One, 8(5). http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062593
Lindsay, E. K., & Creswell, J. D. (2014). Helping the Self Help Others: Self-Affirmation Increases Self-Compassion and Pro-Social Behaviors. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 421. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4026714/
Taylor, S. E., & Sherman, D. K. (2008). Self-Enhancement and Self-Affirmation the Consequences of Positive Self-Thoughts for Motivation and Health. Forms and Systems of Motivation [E-reader version] (pp. 57-70). Retrieved from http://people.psych.ucsb.edu/sherman/david/taylorsherman2008motivation.pdf