What are you thinking about right now?
What are the thoughts that have been running through your head today? Maybe even on repeat?
If you’re like most people you have a little litany that you tell yourself most days...whether you realize it or not.
Yours may go something like: “I am so tired!” “My kids are driving me crazy!” “I hate this job.” “Ugh, more laundry!?” (Full disclosure...all of these thoughts have been a part of my personal inner monologues over the years!)
But what’s the big deal? I mean, we all have thoughts flitting through our minds constantly all day long and there’s really not very much we can do about them...right?
The truth is that you have a lot of power over your thoughts--and this is a very big deal because our thoughts play a huge part in determining both our emotions and our actions.
Just as a quick example, if you’ve ever gone around telling yourself “I’m so tired” all day, how did you feel? I’m willing to bet that you felt exhausted and unmotivated!
In addition to feeling worse, you probably also dragged your feet through your tasks that day, shirked your responsibilities, and did a fair amount of complaining (again, no judgment here if that’s been you--I’m speaking from experience after all!)
But what would have changed if you instead told yourself, “God is giving me all the energy I need to do what he wants me to do today.”
While you may still have been physically fatigued, you may also have felt peaceful and empowered. You would probably have done your best to complete your daily tasks (despite how tired you were feeling).
And you may even have had the experience (that seems to stem most frequently from relying on God’s strength instead of our own), which is that you could miraculously accomplish a lot more than you really would have been able to do on your own...something I’ve experienced first-hand many times.
But besides the very practical benefits of getting more stuff done with less angst, there are also spiritual impacts that come with changing our thoughts.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, St. Paul writes that we should “take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
What does it mean to “take our thoughts captive”?
I propose that it means we need to be intentional about what thoughts we choose to think. Now, I know that at first pass this may seem impossible. After all, thoughts tend to pop into our minds unbidden all the time!
And it’s true that we can’t control every single thought we ever have. But we can take them captive. How?
By being aware of them! By catching ourselves when we’re in a negative thought spiral and intentionally choosing to combat the barrage of lies and self-defeating thoughts that are coming our way.
And the best “weapon” we have in our arsenal here is quite simply the truth. The truth about who we are. The truth about how God sees us. He truth about what we’re called to.
Unfortunately, if you’re not trained in using a weapon, it’s not going to do you very much good in the heat of battle. In order to be proficient in using the “weapon” of truth in your battle against toxic thoughts, you’ve go to train yourself in doing it--you’ve got to practice thinking the kinds of thoughts that are going to serve you well and help you on your mission.
And the way to do this is really quite simple and will only take you a few minutes a day. Here it is:
You can change the way you think (and thus the way you experience your life) by practicing daily affirmations.
Did you just roll your eyes a little bit?
It’s okay if you did because truly I would have done the same thing a few weeks ago!
When I hear the word “affirmations” it tends to evoke for me images of someone standing in front of a mirror reciting “I attract wealth and abundance” (and meanwhile their bills are going unpaid).
In a nutshell, it makes me think of woo-woo magical thinking that has no place in an authentically Christian worldview.
But I’ve since come to realize that my wholesale dismissal of affirmations was akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Yes, affirmations can be used in a silly “manifest our desires” new-age kind of hogwash (seriously, I went through a huge new-age phase in College and this is again me speaking from my own experience).
However, when I took a step back from my own prejudices to just think about how the brain works, repeating the right daily affirmations actually makes a lot of sense.
What we learn from neuroscience is that the brain is plastic, which means that it has the ability to change over time. What’s incredible about human beings is that we have the ability to consciously change our own brains through what we choose to focus on or think about!
One of the key tenets of neuroplasticity is that “neurons that fire together wire together”, which basically means that you can create a sort of neural “groove” in your brain based on what you repeatedly think or do. This is why it gets easier to do a new skill over time--or one of the reasons why it can be so hard to break a bad habit.
So how do we use this knowledge to our advantage? How do we create mental “grooves” that will help us to experience more joy, more energy, more peace?
Again, by repeating daily affirmations.
But here’s the catch: the affirmations we say to ourselves have to be true!
This is why the example I gave above about repeating “I attract wealth” is so cringe-worthy for me. Because frankly, it may or may not be true.
If you’re going out and working hard every day, then it’s probably not doing you any harm to repeat something like that. But if, on the other hand, you live in your mom’s basement and play video games all day while assuming “The Universe” is going to send you a big, fat check---well, then you may just be delusional.
The question is then: how do we make sure the affirmations we choose to repeat each day are the truth (and not just wishful thinking)?
Thanks be to God that he has given us the answer! It’s his own inspired words in scripture.
We can rest assured that if we use God’s words in scripture as the basis for our affirmations, that we will not be led astray by our own whims or fancies.
God is truth, beauty, and goodness itself, so we can rely on the truths He has revealed to us in the bible.
While I think it would be highly beneficial for you to go through your own bible and choose passages that really resonate with you to create your own affirmations, I want to help you get started right away.
So here is a list of Catholic affirmations that you can choose from:
I am a beloved (son/daughter) of God (1 John 3:1 and 2 Corinthians 6:18)
God the Father delights in me (Mark 1:11)
God knows me by name and cares for me (Isaiah 43:1, Psalm 139:1-4, Jeremiah 29:11)
I am loved by God (Luke 15:8, 1 John 3:16, John 6:54-57, 1 John 4:16).
I have everything that I need because I am blessed by God (Ephesians 1:3, Galatians 1:10, Philippians 4:19)
The Father has chosen me (Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 2:9)
I was made for greatness (1 Peter 2:9)
I was created on purpose and for a purpose (1 Corinthians 10:31)
All of my happiness and holiness comes from my friendship with Christ (John 15:11, 16)
I am never alone (Joshua 1:9, Matthew 28:20, Psalm 23:4)
Nothing and no one can separate me from the love of God (2 Corinthians 1:22, Romans 8:39)
My past does not define me--I am a new creation in Christ (Isaiah 43:18, John 21: 15-19, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Revelation 21:5)
I reject a life of sin and refuse to be mastered by it (Romans 6:6, 1 Corinthians 15:34)
I am a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16, and 6:19)
The Holy Spirit gives me love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
I am grateful (Psalm 7:17)
I am strong, courageous, and bold (Psalm 27:1, Psalm 60:12, 2 Timothy 1:7)
I can do all things through Christ who Strengthens me (Phillipians 4:13, Mark 9:23, Psalm 27:3)
I live in the present moment--where God always is (Matthew 6:34, Isaiah 43:18-19, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 12:2)
I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who are cheering me on to run the race set before me today (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I am safely wrapped in the mantle of my mother Mary (John 19:26-27, Luke 1:56)
I will courageously pursue the dreams that God has placed in my heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
When I am tired and heavily burdened, I turn to Christ who gives me rest (Matthew 11: 28)
God is near to me whenever I call upon him (Deuteronomy 4:7)
God will not fail me or forsake me (Deut. 31:6)
I love the Lord and my heart is made radiant (Sirach 2:9)
The Lord gives insight to my mind and grants my desire for wisdom ( Sirach 6:37)
My strength is in quietness and trust (Isaiah 30:15)
The Lord gathers me in his arms and carries me in his bosom (Isaiah 40:11)
The Lord holds my hand and says, “Fear not. I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:3)
God will never forget me-I am graven on the palms of his hands (Isaiah 49:15-16)
My Father knows what I need before I ask him ( Matthew 6:8)
Even the hairs of my head are numbered ( Matthew 10:30)
I will never see death (John 8:51, John 6:54)
Christ calls me by name and leads me (John 10:3)
Jesus came so that I can have life--and have it abundantly. (John 10:10)
Jesus is preparing a place for me in his father’s house--and he’s coming back for me (John 14:3)
I abide in Christ and in His love for me (John 15:5, 15:9)
Jesus gives me his own joy so that my joy can be full (John 15:11)
Jesus has chosen me (John 15:6)
I am filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52)
I am called to be a saint (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:2)
I know that the suffering of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17))
I stand in awe of the kindness of God (Romans 11: 19-22)
I overcome evil with good (Romans 12:20-21)
Jesus will sustain me to the end (1 Corinthians 1:7-8)
Everything that I have is a gift--I can boast of nothing (1 Corinthians 4:7)
I will never be tempted beyond my strength to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13)
I know that my labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58)
I rely on God, who raises the dead; Not on myself (2 Corinthians 1:9)
I am being changed from glory to glory into the likeness of God (2 Corinthians 3:18)
This slight, momentary affliction is preparing me for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison (2 Corinthians 4:17)
My aim is to please God (2 Corinthians 5:9)
I do not measure or compare myself with anyone else (2 Corinthians 10:12)
Christ’s grace is sufficient for me and his power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The Holy Spirit gives me his fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22)
I am a fellow citizen with the Saints and the members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19)
I am strengthened with might through the Holy Spirit in my inner self (Ephesians 3:16)
God’s power at work in me is able to do far more abundantly than all I ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)
Whatever good I do, I will receive the same again from the Lord (Ephesians 6: 8)
With the shield of faith, I can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. (Ephesians 6:16)
God is at work in me, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13)
I forget what lies behind and strain forward to what lies ahead, pressing on toward the goal, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Phillippians 3:13-14)
I rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4)
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keeps my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Phillippians 4:7)
I live rooted in Christ and I abound in thanksgiving (Colossians 2:7)
Whatever my task, I work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men (Colossians 3:23)
I take hold of the eternal life to which I am called (1 Timothy 6:12)
I take my share of suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3)
So how do you get into the habit of repeating these affirmations daily? I recommend using the printable version of this list (which you can download below) and start your day by reading them out loud. Maybe you can do it while you have your morning coffee or before your prayer time. Maybe you can record yourself reading them and play the audio during your commute. Do what works best for you.
The intent is that eventually, you’ll be able to catch when you’re having a toxic thought like, “I’m just not good enough” and replace it with something more true and edifying like, “Jesus has chosen me (John 15:6).”
I challenge you to repeat these affirmations every day for one week (or a truncated version of them--maybe choose the 15 or 20 that resonate with you the most as a starting place). Just try it and see how you feel. Then let me know in the comments below :)