If you want to reach a challenging physical goal, the right mindset is the foundation for all the hard work and effort that you’ll need to put in to get there. But mindsets come in all shapes and forms.
What motivates one person might leave another feeling a little cold, so finding something that works for you is a really important first step.
For a lot of top athletes, affirmations are one of the most valuable mental tools in their arsenal. Plenty of sports psychologists swear by them when training the best to do their best – and for proof, look no further than Valarie Allman’s approach.
The American discus thrower repeated three simple affirmations before going on to win gold at Tokyo 2020: “I am capable of winning. I deserve to win. I will win.”
It’s powerful stuff. And she’s far from alone in taking a few private moments to talk herself up either before competing or first thing in the morning.
But what really goes into an affirmation, and what is it about them that makes them such powerful motivation and mindset techniques?
Affirmations come in all shapes and sizes. At their core though, they’re anything you can read, write, or speak that puts a positive spin on either the day ahead or a particular goal you’re trying to achieve.
Sports psychologist Dr Amber Shipherd outlines how affirmations and other forms of positive self-reinforcement can work in two different ways:
When they work, affirmations really work.
As Dr Shipherd explains, there’s “a vast amount of research supporting the effectiveness of using self-talk in improving performance, skill development, focus, [and] confidence.”
They can also stimulate your brain’s reward system to get the energy flowing, and even shape the ways that you experience emotional pain or physical fatigue.
So why aren’t we all doing it?
There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about affirmations out there – even amongst top athletes.
Some simply think they don’t work, while others are more worried about the potential drawbacks.
The big one here is the possibility for positive self talk to unknowingly lead to negative self talk.
This is more of a risk if you’re the type of person who struggles with self-esteem anyway, leading a simple affirmation like “I prioritise my health and body” to darker thoughts around all the ways that you might not be doing that.
Affirmations aren’t right for anyone, and if you’re really struggling with your mental wellbeing and self-esteem then it may be worth talking to a counsellor or therapist as a first step.
For others though, this potential pitfall can be avoided by constructing affirmations that leave less room for negativity to creep in.
That could mean:
If you’re interested in incorporating an affirmation into your routine, the morning might just be the best place to do it.
Mornings are a chance for us to collect ourselves before the day ahead – and most of us already have a relatively set routine that’s easy to slot one more thing into.
When you build morning affirmations, there are a few different ways to go.
Some prefer to have just one strong affirmation that they repeat over and over. While others like to spread things around a little bit, with a list of different affirmations to work through.
If you’re focusing affirmations around your health, one option is starting with the challenges you’re trying to overcome.
A few common examples are motivation, focus, and confidence, which you can use to create affirmations that speak directly to those areas and help you overcome them.
Alternatively, if you’ve already developed specific fitness goals relating to how you perform, look, or feel, then those could be just as effective for your morning affirmations.
You’ve already decided that reaching a specific run time, getting to a certain weight or simply improving your health is important to you – so lean into that goal for an affirmation that’s truly personal.
That might look like:
Whatever area you decide to focus on, it's proven that morning affirmations improve performance. As long as yours is personal, it should give you a boost that helps you get closer to wherever you want to be.
That’s the mental edge that can make the difference between a silver medal and a gold one – and you don’t need to be an Olympian to have it.
But if you don’t have a specific fitness goal in mind yet, or aren’t sure where to start on your journey towards one, then talk to us.
We’ll help you go as many rounds as it takes to get there.
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