Exploring quotes and affirmations

Quotes and affirmations are widely used in coaching and counselling. From an art therapy perspective, they can be used in visual journals, artist trading cards and also make really attractive posters and other small art projects.  Many motivational courses serve up lessons on affirmations in some shape or form.  These are not to be confused with quotes.

Quotes help to introduce us to new ways of thinking or to clarify nebulous ideas. They are pithy statements, usually by well-known personalities such as writers, psychologists, scholars or leaders who have ruminated long and hard on the point in question. Quotes help to expand our thinking and lead us down new avenues. I find that analyzing the quotes which I have collected and elected to illustrate, help me with idea generation and also to clarify what I need to work on or change. Quotes are excellent as motivational tools as well and are widely used in coaching and to encourage skill building. Pinterest is an excellent resource to get you started - check out my board 'Mind wisps' (it has over 2,000 quotes with more added each week).

Affirmations though superficially similar, work very differently. They are also succinct phrases or sentences, which we can craft ourselves (though it is fairly common to adopt some as well). Though also used for skill-building and motivation, affirmations are a declarations of intent. The thinking is that if we repeat them often and with feeling, they will percolate into our being and eventually become truths. Some say that it takes a minimum of 21 days for an affirmation to become 'true'. A 2010 study suggests that as affirmations are aimed at the conscious mind, they will not always work and that interrogative self talk is more effective. This involves re-framing the "I am" affirmation statements to "Am I?" questions which uncover any resistance that might exist to the affirmation. When these resistances are uncovered and worked through, then the affirmation has a better chance of succeeding.(For more details see - Senay, I., AlbarracĂ­n, D., & Noguchi, K. (2010). Motivating Goal-Directed Behavior Through Introspective Self-Talk: The Role of the Interrogative Form of Simple Future Tense. Psychological Science 21(4), 499-504.)


Personal journal pages and workshop plans
There are specific steps involved in creating affirmations that work. These steps are:
1. Selecting the content of your affirmations:
(a) List the things you really like about yourself as you are at the moment in sentences starting with "I am..."
These sentences are affirmations of who you are
(b) Make a list of the negative scripts that you want to change
(c) Make a list of the positive goals you want to accomplish
2. Crafting your affirmations:
(a) Prioritize what you want to work on. You can accomplish anything you want to but the easiest way to do that is to focus on a few things at one time. What do you want to work on most? Why? What is most urgent? What is most important. Choose no more than five areas for action at a time.
(b) Write your affirmations as "I can..." or "Today I will" sentences. The first type of affirmation is to build belief in your ability to do what you want to do. The second type is to specify what step you will take today to accomplish what you want.
(c) Match up your positive attributes with your goals. The purpose of doing this is to encourage yourself.
(d) Make your affirmations visceral, ie program them into your being. You can do this:
-  Visually : via journal pages, vision boards, affirmation cards (which you post on your fridge, work area or in your wallet), via artist trading cards - if you belong to a group that is working on the same goal.
- Aurally: by repeating the affirmations to yourself like a mantra
- By meditating, visualization, even prayer
- In a group of like-minded people
- With a coach (who can help you with a raft of strategies)
3. Planning a celebration, maintenance and follow-up strategies for when you have achieved your goal.
4. As you get close to your goal, researching the next steps

The images below are excerpted from my visual journal and quotation card deck. I hope that they prompt you to get you started.
Visual journal exercise on the theme of 'Autumn' (part of the 'Creative Mindfulness Membership' course - School of Modern Psychology)

Quotation cards - for an artist trading card swap
Visual journal exercise - Journal 52 prompt
Prompt for a visual journal exercise - Expressive art therapy group

The page background was the result of an exercise to explore colour and texture using acrylic paint


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