What are Self-Affirmations?
"I will succeed today... My life becomes richer as I get older... and I'm calm, happy and content". As we go through life, these are words and feelings that are fundamental to be instilled within our belief systems. Throughout an individual’s growth, past experiences and conditioned responses result in the development of various self-talk or self-directed speech habits.
Unfortunately, the human mind tends to favour negative self-talk because its sharp emotions elicit a more considerable impact than its positive counterparts. Whether it arises from mistakes, judgements or other adverse life situations, our brain is hardwired to focus more on the bad than the good. This is what psychologists refer to as a negativity bias, meaning that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are more sensitive to negative forms of stimuli (1).
Broadly defined, positive affirmations are short and concise statements that individuals repeat to themselves to challenge negative thoughts and instill positive alternatives. Take, for example, our opening statement, these self-affirmed statements are positively weighted and foster a positive outlook in a person’s mind and belief system.
Mental Health in Elderly PopulationsWhen we discuss mental health, the focus of the conversation typically orients itself toward children or young adults. However, for some reason, we barely hear any mention of the mental health needs that the elderly population requires.
This is not to say that we need to neglect the challenges present in younger demographics, but rather that support services should be as readily available to help the elderly as they are to the young.
Unfortunately, the mental health difficulties that seniors face are equal, if not more pronounced than those felt by their younger counterparts. From 65 onwards, the risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders increases, as do other problems such as social isolation and psychosis.
To make matters worse, the presence of these issues also creates what is termed as co-morbid elderly depression and anxiety, which is when the physical disorders developed through old age lead to a deterioration of mood and capacities for emotional management, (1).
Considering this, mental health treatment for individuals within these age groups deserves practical and highly effective strategies that can be implemented to help shoulder the burden of old age.
The Impact of Positive AffirmationsAnother matter that is important to highlight within senior populations is the burden of stress and the reduction in their ability to manage it adequately. As age increases, so does the level of inflammation caused by stress, resulting in damage to the body and mood. This highlights the vital need for seniors to maintain their integrity of the self and possess the relevant coping mechanisms needed to keep their levels of stress and inflammation at bay.
Research on positive affirmations has shown that they are an effective tool for supporting individuals in reflecting on their strengths and values, allowing them to retain control over their sense of self-integrity, morality and agency other xxxx their lives. These effects are especially pronounced when the person using affirmations feels psychologically threatened. In the case of seniors, multiple factors such as disease, old age, and the thought of dying incur severe psychological burdens on them.
Daily positive affirmations have been evidenced to directly lessen the psychological stress and burden of these threats while keeping self-esteem stable and consistent, (2).
How does this work, you may ask? Typical responses to these threats usually entail an individual reacting in a 'defensive' way to them, as people actively try to protect their self-integrity or reduce the negative emotions that arise by actively combating the threat. When you are young, you may not feel the psychological consequences of this behaviour, but this tends to change with age.
Due to the constant state of fight-or-flight mode, stress hormones (i.e. cortisol) will spike for seniors and take longer to decrease to baseline levels which is how they develop the issues mentioned above, (3). However, the switch in thinking patterns produced by positive affirmation effectively negates these outcomes by removing the senior from the fight-or-flight mode altogether.
Put simply, the affirmations produce a switch in perspective that turn the threats into simple events that may feel uncomfortable but that won’t able to define who they are as a person. This neutralizes the perceived danger to their integrity and instils a positive mindset that will foster psychological well-being, (4).
Talking Hearts with Positive Self-Affirmations
There are different iterations of Talking Hearts that aim to provide science-backed positive affirmations to all age groups. Due to the significant difficulties that elderly individuals face, Talking Products Ltd has produced a special version of their Talking Hearts which is a device specifically tailored to meet the needs of seniors. With over 40 positive affirmations that have received extensive scrutiny from the development team, each affirmation is made to ensure the highest possible impact on the user. Talking Hearts offer an effective method for seniors to have 24-hour access to the beneficial outcomes that spring from the use of positive affirmation.
For more information, visit the Talking Hearts Web Page at www.TalkingProducts.com and browse the different ways in which Talking Hearts can elicit positive change.
Article written by Matthias Laroche, (B.Sc. – Psychology and M.Sc. – Neuropsychiatry)
We also wish to extend our special thanks to Tamara Bogan, LPC, (Ed.S. Argosy University, Atlanta, USA). Tamara Bogan is a licensed psychotherapist in Coastal Georgia. She works with individuals, couples and parents. Tamara is also trained in Brainspotting and Trauma-Informed M-CBT. Please visit her website for more information: www.seatofresilience.com
1.) Vink, D., Aartsen, M. J., & Schoevers, R. A. (2008). Risk factors for anxiety and depression in the elderly: a review. Journal of affective disorders, 106(1-2), 29-44.
2.) Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: Self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual review of psychology, 65, 333-371.
3.) Handen, B. L. (1991). Stress and stress management with the elderly. In Handbook of clinical behavior therapy with the elderly client (pp. 169-183). Springer, Boston, MA.
4.) Sherman, D. K. (2013). Self-affirmation: Understanding the effects. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7(11), 834-845.