"Write what you need to read." ~Brene Brown

Friday, August 26, 2016

SHOCKING NEW STUDY: Even You Can Train Yourself to Change Your Mood, but Only if You Really Want to.

What's in YOUR Self Image?
Just for today, I'm hopping on the SHOCKING NEW STUDY bandwagon. Spoiler alert:  The short version of my message here is twofold:  1) It’s a great idea to use your common sense before quickly believing what you find on the inter webs  and  2) Yes, positive affirmations absolutely do work if you really want to believe them and you know how to use them.

I suppose I should also offer a trigger alert. If you have low self esteem, you may expose yourself to some discomfort because you will be unfairly compared to people with high self esteem. It may put you in touch with the idea that life isn't fair.. Just reading that last paragraph, did you find yourself saying, I don't believe you... you're full of baloney!  Positive affirmations are for Faker McFake faces.

And the good news. If you're still reading, you WANT to know the (dare I say it?) secret

Don't believe me. Get curious, use your brain, and Decide for yourself. You don't have to read another word of this article.. unless you're kind of curious...

What happens when you read a headline describing a “Shocking New Study?” Does that give you the idea that you’re about to learn a startling new truth?


As Harvard Professor, Dr. Ellen Langer will tell you, Research, at best, presents you with a probability. Studies are based on the beliefs, biases, and monetary incentives of the people doing the research. They usually have a desired result in mind, and will delete, distort, and generalize to prove a point.

So now I come to my inspiration for writing this blog post. Recently, someone sent me a video about Positive Affirmations.

The video referred to A SHOCKING NEW STUDY revealing that positive affirmations don’t work, and can actually increase your stress levels. Out of curiosity, I followed the rabbit all the way down the hole and to the end of the video promo designed to put you in a horribly depressed and deprived state. Then, and only then do they offer their easy to use, miracle video, because without it, you’re doomed to a life of failure and misery.  Yes folks, for only a one time payment of a measly $47, you’ll be sent their sure fire EASY and EFFORTLESS way to happiness.

“There is no way to happiness. 
Happiness is the way.”  
~Dr. Wayne Dyer

This company is using an old study, targeting people with low self esteem in order to sell something. That's evil and wrong. 

I'll diverge for a moment. In the early days of space travel the USA and the Russian Cosmonaut program used pencils because pens clogged in zero gravity.  Then one day, a guy named Price spent millions of dollars developing a zero gravity space pen which he sold to NASA for just under 3 bucks a piece. The man who did this has made back his millions and more over the past fifty years, selling his zero gravity pens. He did all that research to sell you a gimmick, and they're still for sale all over the world. 

Let’s go back to that SHOCKING study referenced in that video.  I found the Article entitled, “PositiveSelf-Statements:  Power for Some, Peril for Others.

Let’s stop there.  What a title!!  Wow.  Peril.  (No bias there). (!!!). 

This dour band of scientists set out to prove that positive affirmations are a waste of time if you don’t already believe them, and your poor limbic system will fire like it's the fourth of July, and that's not good. 
Your Brain on Positive Affirmations..

Here's what they wanted to prove:
“If the positive statement falls outside one’s latitude of acceptance, one will reject the statement and perhaps hang on more fervently to their negative convictions.”  (Wood, Perunovic, & Lee, 2009).

No surprises there. I have met a lot of people who cling desperately to some truly heinous self-perceptions. It’s not until they want something new that will require them to let go of these perceptions that they will loosen their vice-like grip.

So here is what they did in the study. The researchers chose the affirmation, “I am a lovable person.” They tested participants to determine their levels of self esteem. The participants were instructed to say the affirmation every time they were cued by a ring tone, (about every 15 seconds).  For FOUR minutes. After a period of 4 minutes, the participants were asked to report their moods. Unsurprisingly, the people who had higher self esteem reported an improvement in mood. The people with lower self esteem reported a worsened mood, and brain scans reported increased limbic activity in their brains.

SHOCKING. People with low self esteem did not “get happy” in 4 minutes.

My amazing skills of calculation lead me to the number 16. People repeated the phrase “I am a lovable person" 16 times.  

If that did it, there would be no self help section in your book store. 

That’s only slightly a few more repetitions than Bob Wiley mutters in the opening credits of What about Bob, and you see where that was getting him.


That’s like asking someone who hasn't exercised in years to do four minutes of cardio. One time won't do it. If they did four minutes of cardio for the next four months, however, that person would be starting to notice changes.

The truth is that getting fitter, or improving your self concept is going to require a little practice.  The question is whether you have a reason to motivate you. Chances are you are the way you are because nothing is tugging at you enough to make a change.  It also may well be that changing would make you feel vulnerable or uncomfortable.  

It's so unfortunate that these researchers condemned positive affirmations for people with low self esteem after 4 minutes.  It's what Michael Phelps does. It's not too good for you, no matter how sad you are, or how many tragedies have befallen you. 

Have a compelling reason to motivate you.

ON my way to finding the study, I found another study conducted by the very same University of Waterloo measuring the effectiveness of positive affirmations with cancer patients. In that study, positive affirmations were proven to be effective. Of course, these people were faced with life or death. 

Life is a pretty compelling reason
 to think healthier thoughts, especially when you consider the alternative...

How to Improve Your Self Concept Using Positive Affirmations

Here’s how you get into a state. It is a combination of your physicality, your focus, and your language.  How you hold your body, what thoughts you focus on, and how you describe what you’re focusing on will put you in a state of depression, grief, sorrow, joy, anxiety… Change one thing and your state can shift. Change all three, and you can change your state. Practice changing your state, and you can get yourself out of a funk without faking it. 
If you want to change your state, change one of these. If you really want to change your state, change all three.

Here are the steps to making affirmations work.
  1. Know your why. What is your compelling reason for wanting to believe that pesky and elusive positive concept? Do you want to improve your relationships? Get a better job? Get healthier? Make a blockbuster major motion picture? What?
  2. Imagine who you will have to be to accomplish this. See yourself, feel yourself, hear the sounds associated with that moment of mission accomplished.  Will you need a different self concept?
  3. Decide to take responsibility for your life. Start choosing for yourself. Stop relying on people, things, food, and other things outside of yourself. Unless it's ducks or dogs. Ducks and dogs are wonderful.
  4. Check your pose.  Are you slouching? Is your chest caved in? Are your shoulders touching your ears? Try this instead. Stand tall. Feet should be right under your pelvis, slightly bent. Chest forward, shoulder back, chin tucked slightly. Feel your spine getting lengthened. Place your hands on your hips, pull your elbows back behind you. Feel vulnerable and silly?  Bonus points for you!!
  5. Move!  Take your affirmations for a walk. If you have the energy, skip!!  Tony Robbins calls his affirmations “InCANtations.” He will tell you that you absolutely need to get your body involved.
  6. Take a few deep breaths. Feel the breath filling your lungs in all directions, filling your rib case, pushing down to your diaphragm, and up into your shoulders. Imagine the oxygen travelling to every cell of your being.
  7. Speak with conviction. Even if you disagree with it, there’s a part of you that wants to believe it. Say out loud, “I am a lovable person.” 
  8. Notice your response. If it’s a good feeling, move to step 13. If it is no bueno, see step 8.
  9. Welcome the discomfort. Tell yourself, “I’m sure this makes sense. 
  10. Ask some questions of the discomfort, and notice the answers without judging them:
      1. What is your objection?
      2. Is it true?
      3. How is this helping me?
      4. How old is the objection?
      5. Does it belong to me?
      6. Does the objection still hold?
      7. Am I ready for an upgrade of my self concept?  If the answer to this last question is no, then this is a good time for you to stop.Until you decide you want to adopt a different way of viewing yourself, all the affirmations in the world won't help.
  11.  Keep repeating that positive affirmation, with conviction, as best you can, even if you feel uncomfortable.
  12. Be willing to upgrade your self concepts. Keep repeating the line, with conviction. “I am a lovable person.”
  13. Allow yourself to cry and sob as you keep repeating the affirmation. Do your best to say it with conviction. That’s your healthy self concept helping your negative self concept to heal, much as a mother gives soothing reassuring comfort to her sobbing infant. Good mothers don’t give up on their crying children. Be your own good mother and don’t give up on yourself.
  14. Bring to mind moments when you experienced love. If you can’t think of any, think of movies you’ve watched, or television commercials, for chrissake, when someone was loved and being lovable. If you can’t think of anything else, watch this video of these adorable ducks and put yourself right in that pool with them. (Unless, of course, this upsets you.).
  15. Understand that this is a practice. You are teaching yourself to change your state.  You will improve with practice.  You’ve been doing this several times a day since you were born. If you begin noticing this, you will be amazed!  
  16. Get good at it through practice.  Pretty soon, you’ll be right up there with Pollyanna and Little Miss Sunshine!!
  17. Know that things will happen and you’ll have bad days, and that the good news is you won’t have to spend nearly as long staying in a funk.

My conclusion?  You are a lovable person. You always have been (even when you weren’t).   It's your birth right, and my wish for you is that you begin to believe it, and let go of those erroneous messages from childhood. You do not need to wallow in the pain and sorrow of the past.

My other conclusion?  Be discerning of what you come across in life, and ask if it's true or useful. 

That, and, get curious about those SHOCKING STUDIES on the inter webs.

AND LAST, (In Keeping with the SHOCKING STUDY bandwagon, here's a shameless plug.  Try intenSAti for 30 days. Find an instructor near you.  If you're in Bend, it's me.  You can try it for free. If you live elsewhere, visit 


See what's there, and find a leader near you!  They are lovely people, and you just might like it. It helped me to understand how powerful positive declarations can be. Through this practice, I went from hating my job and my life to getting healthier and happier. 
Try intenSati for 30 days.  (First one's free..)

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