At some point during the Great Recession, my default operating mode became one of anxiety and cynicism. While I initially thought of this as a defense mechanism, it’s probably more likely that I just tend towards pessimism in tough times. However, I realized about a month ago that I was tired of being so worried about life that I was no longer enjoying it. (Not in a suicidal way, mind you – just a pervasive ennui that I had trouble shaking.) Maybe that’s what led me to pick up a book that I’d been given years ago: The Miracle of Prayer by Rosemary Ellen Guiley. Many of the chapters in the book mention the Unity Church and their emphasis on affirmative prayer and positive thinking. Out of curiosity, I started researching the tecniques on my own and was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered.
Affirmative prayer and positive thinking remind me a bit of a koan in the sense they’re both simple and complex. The principle behind these two techniques sounds easy enough – picture a goal in your mind, think of a positive way to plainly state said goal, then use that as a prayer or a personal affirmation. For example, a business owner going through a slump may use affirmative prayer to appeal to a deity (“God blesses my business with prosperity.”) or state how they wish things to be (“My business is thriving and prosperous.”). There’s much, much more to it, though – adherents say that you have to be careful how you state things, must keep focused on the goal you want to accomplish and, above all, have faith that these goals will, in fact, come true. There are a lot of resources you can turn to if you want to learn the details, and I highly recommend doing so – my little explanation doesn’t even scratch the surface.
I’ve started integrating these techniques into my own life, and I have seen a big difference in both my attitude and my stress levels. I want to emphasize that I’m still realistic about my life – I know that my goals won’t come about if I sit around and do nothing to advance them – but the affirmations have increased my confidence and keep me from stressing out about the little details that I ultimately can’t control. The boost I get from saying simple things like, “I am successful,” also helps me overcome nervousness and helps me gain a new perspective on situations. Arguments can certainly be made that these techniques are more psychological than mystical, and they certainly have the ability to be misconstrued and, sadly, misused. (I would not, for example, use these techniques in favor of medical intervention if I was suffering from a disease.)
That said, affirmations can do wonders at resetting your internal dialogue, which inevitably helps you change your outlook on life and the ways you interact with those around you. I’ll provide updates about my progress from time to time, but for now I’m pleased to report that my ennui has lifted and I’m feeling hopeful about my future for the first time in a while. Perhaps what they say is true – in the end, you make your own luck.