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Think That Positive Mantras Help a Lot? Try Value Affirmation Instead

Think That Positive Mantras Help a Lot? Try Value Affirmation Instead

Positive thinking is one of the most touted philosophies in the world. Many authors have written many different books and articles professing about the advantages of positive mantras, and the list includes not only writers but many notable industrialists, celebrities, and highly respected personalities.

Decoding positive thinking

Positive thinking [1] is actually developing our mindset in such a way that we expect good and only favorable outcomes from any events. In other words, it’s the process of transferring our energy into reality by thinking only optimistic thoughts. (That’s what the notion is, at least.)

Does it really work?

While many people believe that positive thinking really leads you to the path of glory and happiness, there are others who think otherwise. Both sides have put forward many compelling reasons supporting their views. While the argument may be never ending, the detractors have a strong foothold over their claims because the proponents of the debate don’t have too many scientific backings behind their claims.

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How positive mantras can backfire

Suppression of negative emotions causes outbursts of dreadful negativity

If we use positive mantras [2] too frequently, then it might work for a shorter period but on the long run, it may cause even more adverse consequences. Why so? When we use a positive mantra, it tends to suppress our negative emotions. But, if it continues for a longer time and becomes a habit, then we might be overwhelmed by even more negative feelings at times when the results are not as expected, as there should be a balance between positive emotions and negative emotions in life. The balance of positive and negative feelings in life is also supported by the Ying and Yang theory developed by the Chinese.

Action speaks louder than mantras

Additionally, uttering positive mantras in our life might work sometimes and also, to channel the energy into reality, utter faith and absolute belief are required. However, the mantras most definitely prove themselves useless, if we just keep chanting positive mantras but fail to put into action the message that the mantra is supposed to convey. As a consequence of that, we might be caught off guard by negative kind of vibes, and feel highly frustrated because our mind will immediately conjure up many negative thoughts.

For instance, if you believe that a perfect body is the one with well-toned abs, biceps, and wings, which you don’t possess, but keep on insisting that you have a perfect body, then your mind will start searching for the fallacies (which you think, mind it) within your body. You will be insecure about the little bit of belly protruding out, you will be insecure about your waistlines and even your arms. This will make you more insecure about your body and will depress you even more.

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Trap you into delusional fantasies

A fact is a fact, it won’t change irrespective of the situations and time, so a fact is not going to change even when you utter positive mantras your whole life. For example, if you are a little short on the finances, you aren’t going to miraculously solve your financial problems just because you utter positive mantras million times. It will be much better if you accept the reality and work towards dealing with it. For example if you have loan problems you should work on personal budgeting instead of living with a false sense of security. This will make you happier on the long run.

Let’s take another scenario for example. You have an exam tomorrow and you are not prepared well. If you say that you are going to score 100 out of 100, it’s never going to work irrespective of how many times you say it in your head. The reality is you haven’t prepared well and there are certainly going to be questions, which you haven’t prepared for. While positive mantras might help you to write the answers correctly to the questions that you have prepared for, you won’t be able to write the answers, you don’t know. What I am trying to say is ‘there is a hypothetical situation and there is a brute reality’. Conjuring fantasies to wrap up reality is no way to answer any question in the real world.

Hard work is key to success in our life. If you have worked hard then despite all the negative thoughts that might surround your head instinctively, you are going to perform better, however, if you haven’t put on enough work, then no matter how many times you say that you are going to be successful, it won’t be enough.

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When positive mantras backfire

A study has also shown that positive thinking works well if you have very high self-esteem [3] . But if you have low self-esteem and utter positive mantras, it is found that it will only strengthen your negative mindset when they are met by set-backs. This will result in many negative feelings. For example, if a good football player believes that he is going to be the best then it will act as a buffer and he will be able to perform to his potential, however, if a player with low self-esteem thinks that he is going to be the best player in the world, he will feel that his shooting is not good and even his passing is not on the par with average football player in the world, which means he will perform worse in the matches.

Are there any alternatives that actually work?

If you are the believer of positive mantras and you are beginning to doubt its functionality, what will you do? Don’t fret because there is another theory called value affirmation which might help you.

What is value based self-affirmation?

First of all, values are the beliefs which we think are desirable and ideal. Our values are dynamic as it is changing accordingly and reshaping as we experience new things in our life, therefore, it is necessary that we update our values constantly, so our objective in life resembles the values we believe in.

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If we are aware of our values, it will help to maintain balance in our life. If there is an imbalance between our value and aim, it will undermine our motivation to do things. Hence, value affirmation is recognizing the values we believe in rather than saying the things like positive mantras repeatedly.

Does value based self-affirmation really work?

In one of the surveys conducted recently, students in one of the universities were chosen randomly to write about their values. Those students who were selected performed very nicely in their college years in comparison to those students who had not taken part. This was repeated again with the same success in Hispanic community and African-American community.

Therefore, the next time you find yourself chanting mantras to assure you that everything is going to be fine, stop. Instead, try to recognize your deeply rooted values and check whether your values are in balance with your action and goals or not, and become successful.

Reference

More by this author

Nabin Paudyal

Co-Founder, Siplikan Media Group

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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