When thinking of positive affirmations, does your mind rewind to the Saturday Night Live skit with Stuart Smalley and his famous line ” I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!” The idea of saying something to oneself may seem foolish and silly but the power of positive affirmations is real.

In class, I introduce the idea of saying positive things to oneself by encouraging shouts of “I’m strong!” and  “I’m focused!” in warrior poses. During savasana, I take the class on a relaxation journey using my favorite book, Ready… Set… RELAX. These texts always include positive affirmations along with guided breathing techniques. The kids repeat to themselves positive sayings for example “I feel good about who I am”,  “I can let go and relax” and “I can breathe out tension”.

Children with anxiety can use positive affirmations with breathing techniques to help when feeling stress. A little girl in my daughter’s class was having a tough time in gym. For whatever reason, gym class made her anxious and she often made excuses to go to the nurse. Equipped with the affirmations, “I am OK. This is a feeling and feelings change” she is now happily participating in gym class.

I have also seen the success first hand with my own daughter who started waking up at night and having a hard time settling herself back down. I told her to try to inhale— filling her belly with air— while thinking “I am relaxed” and then exhale while thinking “I can sleep”. It worked like a charm and she is now able to get up in the night and help herself fall back to sleep without my guidance. Affirmations are about self-empowerment.

Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize teaches what he calls “Breath with Healing Thought”. These different variations of affirmations and breath are actually the key to meditation. Try these simple meditations and notice your happiness and peace grow.

1) As you inhale, repeat to yourself “In”. As you exhale, repeat “Out”. This may seem too easy and simple, but you may be surprised to notice how quickly your mind tries to run away to the past or future! Meditation is about being calmly and joyfully present to what is happening now.

2) As you inhale, repeat in your mind “I am calm”. As you exhale, repeat “I am relaxed”. Then continue only with the words “Calm” and “Relax”. The power of the words will instantly reduce your stress and worry.

3) Breathing in, repeat to yourself “I am joy”. Breathing out, smile, and think, “I smile.” Continue calmly breathing, while you repeat “Joy” and “Smile”. Smiles relax hundreds of muscles in the face, neck, and shoulders and the act of smiling can create feelings of well-being.

Affirmations are a great means to help children become self-empowered which ultimately increases their self-esteem. Thoughts combined with breath are a powerful tool to improving feelings of well being.

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