Recently I was searching to find any relevant research on the topic of affirmations. Affirmations are typically believed to help individuals deal with a variety of concerns. Oftentimes they are used for the purpose of improving performance, fostering relaxation, and to address a variety of issues related to anxiety and goal achievement. My question is, Do they actually work?"
During this search I found conflicting information regarding the research. I also came across a term with which I have been relatively unfamiliar," Third Wave Psychology". What is Third Wave Psychology and how does it relate to my search regarding affirmations? Third wave psychology is less about changing negative thinking and more about observation of thought process. Meditative practices such as mindfulness meditation may encourage the practioner to observe their thoughts while suspending judgment on what they observe. In this type of practice it may be seen as more important to observe one's own thoughts with a certain degree of detachment without attempting to change the thoughts themselves. As one detaches from their thoughts and become what Eckert Tolle might call the, "watcher", our bodies begin to relax and we become less reactive to the content of our thoughts. Traditional Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is more concerned with changing thoughts that might have a negative impact on our well-being. It might be typical for a CBT therapist to tell their client that emotions are frequently a result of the way a person thinks. A traditional meditation teacher might encourage the student to observe the mind with detachment so they are less reactive to emotion.
There seems to be evidence that affirmations do have an impact on improving performance. In the process of repeating the affirmation which is much like a mantra we are likely challenging our negative thought. or at least giving more weight to the positive thought and image which alters or reduces the impact of our negative belief. If the affirmation is not consistent with the individual's view of themselves, the affirmation may be less effective according to some studies.
With regards to individuals with ADHD both the practice of changing negative thinking through the use of an affirmation may be helpful. In some ways much like hypnosis individuals with ADHD may have given themselves frequent suggestions that they are not capable in many ways. Replacing these negative thoughts with more positive auditory tracks and images are likely to be helpful. It also may be helpful to learn to observe our thoughts and detach from the chaos which often accompanies this disorder.