Affirmations, A Practice of Resilience

Affirmation decks to boost your mood and assist in stress management

Neanta Parnell – April 25, 2023 

You are affirmed in your existence. 

How did that statement make you feel when you read it? More confident? Did a bit of relief wash over you? 

That’s the power of affirmations: positive statements we make to ourselves (or others) to encourage, inspire, and instill resilience against negative thoughts and behaviors that do not serve us. 

An important part of the Inner Strength curriculum is social emotional learning-based love and kindness practices that take the form of sending well wishes to oneself, someone of significance, and the world itself. Students usually feel a sense of comfort, calm, and interconnectedness during this practice. This effect is rooted in science. 

Establishing a daily practice of affirmations can influence our emotions and even our neurobiology in a positive way. Regular and consistent use of affirmations can affect our reward center, the prefrontal cortex, and select structures of the limbic system (the mesolimbic dopaminergic pathway) that work primarily in association with dopamine, a neurotransmitter or brain chemical that makes us feel happy. The reward center, in tandem with the limbic system, works to reduce pain, stress, and anxiety to promote wellness and balance physically and mentally. 

Changes in mesolimbic dopaminergic neurotransmission are important for coping with stress, as they allow adaption to behavioral responses to various environmental stimuli. Upon stress exposure, modulation of the dopaminergic reward system is necessary for monitoring and selecting the optimal process for coping with stressful situations.” – nature.com

Taking up a practice of working with affirmations can work to, in small ways, rewire our brains, stimulating the reward center to encourage positive self-regard. This positive self regard can  result in us becoming more resilient under stress. 

A study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (1) used MRI to reveal that practicing self-affirmation activates the reward centers in your brain. Simply say to yourself “I will earn that promotion” and it’ll light up the same reward centers that respond to other pleasurable experiences, such as eating great food. or winning a prize. It fires up your neural pathways and makes changes to those areas of the brain that makes you happy and positive.” – thirdspace.london 

Understanding the benefits of affirmations and wanting to build upon love and kindness as they relate to oneself, Inner Strength Education founder and executive director Amy Edelstein created six different affirmation decks, which will be provided to all 214 public schools in the Philadelphia School District by the District’s Office of School Climate and Culture. That’s a lot of decks! The affirmation decks serve as a tool to help students stay strong within themselves and reach goals in alignment with their higher potential. It is during these years of their lives that the reward center of their brain is still developing and therefore highly receptive to the benefits of establishing an affirmation practice.

Each deck has a different theme. Rapid Revitalization focuses on mindfulness-based stress management practices and reflections for educators. Student decks are designed around 5 distinct themes. Thank You, Thank Me cultivates love and kindness; Yes, You Can! instills self-confidence; Be Easy works with mindfulness-based practices to give students tools to calm, de-stress, and restore; Rise Up and I Am Awesome encourage self-love and determination. The decks are also beautifully designed with earth tones and a warm color palette to get students excited to use them and to assist in grounding the students in their practice. 

Although the decks will be shared directly with the students, we also understand that our youth grow in a community of friends, family, and school staff and administration, which is why we also have the decks available here. We are committed to the healthy development of the next generation of youth, and these decks are an extension of the tools we wish to share. We want the best for our Philadelphia youth and for all the young people in your lives! 

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