How To Use Positive Affirmations To Increase Motivation & Wellbeing In The Workplace

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I can’t do this.

I’m not good enough.

I don’t know that much about it.

I’m so nervous, I’ll never be comfortable here.

Sound familiar? We’re pretty good at talking ourselves out of things or avoiding doing something by telling ourselves we simply, absolutely can’t.

These negative thoughts create a self-fulfilling prophecy – we say these things so much that we start to believe them. And so we stop pushing ourselves and give up trying, until these negative thoughts eventually become true.

Switching these negative thoughts into positive messages of affirmation can change the way you think of yourself and how you approach situations, both in your personal life and in the workplace.

Key points:

  • An affirmation is a statement or phrase that you believe is true. I’m grateful to be healthy, I can learn how to bake a cake and I can handle this are all examples of positive affirmations. Affirmations must focus on the now, so avoid words like ‘soon’, ‘later’ or ‘better’.
  • Used correctly, they can boost performance and help you make better decisions as you have more confidence in your abilities. Positive affirmations can also improve your emotional intelligence.
  • Positive affirmations aren’t just a fluffy theory, they’re actually backed up by science – in particular, neuroplasticity. This refers to how our brain can rewire itself when it needs to adapt, so thinking positive thoughts, reflecting on and reinforcing them (self-affirmation) can alter how your brain works.

The more you think positively and react accordingly, the more positive your thought patterns become. This self-affirmation might even get to a point where your brain will automatically default to being positive rather than negative.

Repeating positive affirmations won’t instantly cure your anxiety or boost your skills. It’ll simply help change the way you think about yourself and the things that hold you back, providing you with more motivation to develop and participate.

💡The key is to be regular and repetitive💡

Ronald Alexander, a psychotherapist at the Open Mind Training Institute, suggests repeating your affirmations for five minutes, up to three times daily.

Speaking positive affirmations out loud can increase the chances of it being reinforced by your subconscious, increasing your belief and trust in yourself.

Do positive affirmations actually work?

Yes, there’s plenty of evidence that suggests positive affirmations do work. As well as the science around how positive affirmations can reform neural pathways, there are also plenty of case studies.

💡Positive affirmations, according to Science💡

For example, a 2012 study by Creswell et al. took 73 variously stressed undergraduates and assigned each of them either positive affirmations or a control condition. They were then tasked with completing 30 problem-solving tasks under time pressure in front of an evaluator. The study found that the undergraduates that took on self-affirmation improved their problem-solving performance over those on the control.

How can positive affirmations be used in the workplace?

Positive affirmations can be used in the workplace. A few examples include:

  • I do my best, and that’s great
  • I can handle problems using my expertise
  • I don’t need to rely on others judgements to feel capable
  • I am on a journey and can find ways to develop
  • Stress doesn’t control my life, I do
  • I will do my best to help others

You can practise speaking your positive affirmations in the bathroom, at your desk, in your car, or by writing them in your journal or on post-it notes. Writing positive affirmations can even be a group activity with your team to improve your communication skills.

💡Positive affirmations in action💡

Say you were about to speak at an event, or even before a performance review at work. You could spend a few minutes reflecting on your competency and qualities, for example, “I have the expertise to succeed in this” and “I won’t be afraid of something I can control”. This can help reduce your anxiety and nerves as well as increase your confidence and self-belief, which can make a successful outcome more likely.

Simply repeating your positive affirmations to yourself might not be enough though. To make this method more effective you can use your other senses to reinforce them. For example, you could perform a certain activity, like drinking tea or listening to a certain song. This anchors the positivity to that sound or action, so over time just the opening notes of the song or the smell of tea can activate the parts of your brain where the affirmation is embedded, which can help strengthen the belief.

🏆Tip: For a team-building exercise, you could each choose a positive affirmation that you relate to and make a poster of it to put up around the office or at your desks. Or you could openly discuss stress or struggles in one-to-one meetings so you can affirm each other – this way could also help you find solutions to problems.

What benefits do positive affirmations bring to the organisation?

Positive affirmations have many advantages for your organisation, like:

  • Motivating you to finish projects
  • Increasing self-esteem
  • Minimising bad habits
  • Reducing stress
  • Improving productivity and performance
  • Increasing confidence before important events
  • Improved relationships with colleagues

Are there any disadvantages to positive affirmations?

There are a few occasions where using positive affirmations won’t be beneficial, including:

  • If you don’t follow-through: Affirmations are more of a stepping stone for change, rather than a magical solution. You need to put them into action.
  • If you exaggerate: If, for example, you tell yourself that you can do something you don’t have the training for, this could waste your organisation’s time and money, not to mention cause difficulties for you personally.
  • If you have deeply ingrained beliefs: For deeply embedded negative beliefs due to mental health problems or trauma, positive affirmations alone won’t be enough – they can instead highlight the negatives you perceive in yourself. Advice from a therapist can be the best course here, as they can help you get to the root of the negative thought and find solutions that work best for you personally.

Other ways to be more positive in the workplace

Another way to be positive at work is to set realistic goals – using the SMART model could help with this as it gets you to outline exactly what you want to achieve, how you’ll do it and how you can measure your progress. This can improve clarity and understanding, as well as create more confidence and motivation.

Keeping a good routine, practising gratitude, continuing to learn and celebrating the good things are a few more ways to improve your mindset.

While there are a lot of ways you can be more positive in the workplace, it’s just as important to not shut away negative feelings, take breaks and have a good work/life balance. Doing this can develop your emotional intelligence, reduce stress and avoid burnout, which will ultimately lead to a happier and more productive you.

More resources on positive affirmations:

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Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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