As a therapist, I often ask people to keep a positive diary, writing down a few small successes or things they are grateful for every day. In a positive diary, you can also write down an affirmation, an intention of what you would like to do or how you would like to feel. For example, you could set the intention to be calm and open-minded. Similary, in my yoga classes, I encourage students to set an affirmation for their practice, and notice positive feelings throughout the class.
These exercises have in common that they encourage you to direct your attention towards specific qualities, a way of positive thinking. Positive thinking is one of the five most important points in yoga, that may help you to feel more balanced and happy in your life. This is also the focus of positive psychology, a field emphasizing happiness and well-being. How does a positive diary help you to develop positive thinking and manage your own well-being?
Firstly, keeping a diary promotes the development of your self-awareness. While writing, you reflect on your thoughts and feelings – it is a way of self-observation. The same is happening during (mindfulness) meditation: you observe your inner world, and notice the thoughts and feelings that arise in your mind. Self-observation is a fundamental element of self-care; it is essential to be aware of your own state of mind if you want to cultivate a sense of happiness.
Secondly, it helps you to change in the long run. Once you have an idea of how you are feeling, whether it is through writing or meditation or another method for introspection, you can also determine what you need to do to balance yourself or work towards your goals. This is another element that you can capture with a positive diary as well as in yoga: your starting point is here and now, in your current state, and you gently work towards a more positive state through gradual practice and change.
Focus on the positive
Change isn’t easy for most people. But let’s stay positive: as human beings, we have the capacity to regulate our own behaviour, to manage ourselves. One of the most powerful things we have is intrinsic motivation, the drive to work towards our goals. However, we often tend to think big, to dream of being happy or even enlightened. It is important to think about how you can get there step by step. So in your diary, you can set a small goal that matches your affirmation. To stick with the idea of being calm and open-minded, you could set the goal to do a mindfulness exercise or home yoga practice every day. And while working on that goal, you can write down every time when you did your mindfulness or yoga exercises. You can also keep track of the positive effects, maybe rating the sense of calmness and openness that you experience every time. This helps to focus on the positive, and to maintain your motivation to work on your self-transformation.
An affirmation as a self-fulfilling prophecy
So a positive diary helps you to develop self-awareness, to set specific goals that match your long-term dreams, and to maintain the motivation for gradual change. These are all conscious and active working mechanisms. Interestingly, setting and affirmation can also help you to change through unconscious processes. Simply telling yourself you are calm and happy, will make you feel and act calm and happy, indeed. In psychology, this is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever you tell yourself, will come true, because you will act according to your beliefs. For example, when you tell yourself you are good at your job, you are more likely to act in a confident and goal-directed way. As a result, your work will be more effective and successful. Conversely, when you believe you are a failure, your behaviour will be more insecure and withdrawn. Therefore, setting a positive affirmation, telling yourself you are strong or calm or creative, is already helpful in itself. The more often you repeat your affirmation, the stronger you will believe in it, the more likely it is to become true.
Altogether, keeping a positive diary with your affirmation is a simple yet powerful tool to work on your personal happiness and well-being. I can highly recommend trying this for yourself, and I am curious about your experiences.
What is your affirmation? Feel free to share it in the comments below!