What’s in an Affirmation
Cardiologist Mimi Guarneri, MD, goes to the heart of words and breath.
Neon Lucky Elephant by Mati Rose
Fifteen years ago, at the age of 70, Harry came in for an appointment because he was experiencing shortness of breath. I did a full evaluation, including a coronary angiogram to look inside his arteries. I told Harry that I thought it would be best if he had a bypass. Harry asked, “Bypass?” I replied, “Yes, open-heart surgery.” Harry looked at me and said, “Dr. G., I am not having a bypass. I have things to do. I have six bunny rabbits at home that I have to feed, and every Friday, I have to meet my friends to fly my model planes. I’m not having a bypass.” And then he added, “Dr. G., I do not need a bypass. My heart is fine.”
I stepped back a bit. Eventually, I thought, I will talk Harry into this surgery. So I took his angiogram to what we call Cardiology Conference, and I had the angiogram reviewed by my colleagues. And 20 out of 20 cardiologists in the room agreed that Harry needed a bypass. So when Harry came back to see me, I said, “Harry, the entire committee, every cardiologist we have, says you need a bypass. And I agree.” Again, he disagreed, and again, I could feel his conviction. He was not just saying the words “I do not need a bypass. My heart is fine.” He truly believed he did not need this surgery.
You can guess how this story ends. It is 15 years later, Harry is 85 years old, and he still hasn’t had a bypass surgery. He no longer complains of chest pain or shortness of breath. I am not suggesting that anyone forgo a necessary surgery or defy their physician’s wishes. Harry felt he knew what was best for him. He believed it on a very deep level. He continued to affirm, “I do not need surgery,” even though it was clear from a medical standpoint that he did.
An affirmation is a declaration of your belief that something is true. It is not about just saying words; it is about knowing with your mind and believing in your heart what you are saying. In essence, you are feeling this belief with every aspect of your being.
A 2007 study evaluated the effect of affirmations through expressive writing by women who had survived breast cancer. After analyzing the women’s essays, researchers concluded that those women whose writing was affirmative and positive experienced fewer negative symptoms and a better health outcome than those who focused on the negative.
I do believe that practicing positive affirmations and feeling the words throughout your being can have a profound effect on your health. Remember, words are energy, and they have power, so choose yours wisely. Pay attention to how you use words, and reframe negative statements whenever possible. Say your affirmation over and over again throughout the day. Whenever you notice a negative thought, replace it with a positive affirmation.
A Healing Turn of Phrase
- Instead of saying, “I am unemployed,” say, “I am ready for employment.”
- Instead of saying, “I am sick,” say, “I am healed.”
- Instead of saying, “I am poor,” say, “My life is filled with abundance.”
Calling Your Best Self into Being
- I approve of myself and I love myself.
- I am love.
- My actions create abundance and prosperity.
- I forgive myself for past mistakes.
- All is well.
- I attract abundance and wealth.
- I am healthy in body and mind.
Bring Your Hands to Heart Center and Breathe.
Even the simplest breathwork exercises produce instant results. Breathing controls our autonomic nervous system. When we take a deep breath in, our heart rate increases, and when we exhale, our heart rate decreases. However, if we breathe in a cyclical, rhythmic way, our autonomic system stabilizes.
Heart-focused breathing is one of these techniques. To engage in it, the first thing you need to do is to take a time-out. If at all possible, remove yourself from a stressful situation, especially before you say or do something that you may regret. If you can’t remove yourself physically, do so emotionally. Next, get out of your head by dropping your focus down to your heart. Imagine that you are breathing in and out through your heart. This may feel funny at first, but in a few minutes, you’ll see that it becomes really easy. This is heart-focused breathing.
Take a full, deep breath in for five seconds and five seconds out. Do this for about five minutes. Next, as you continue to breathe in and out to the count of five, think about the love you feel for someone, such as your baby, grandchild, or pet. Don’t just think about your baby, grandchild, or pet; experience the emotions of love and appreciation. Continue this technique of breathing and feeling love or appreciation for 20 minutes. As soon as you start the breath, you are interrupting the body’s stress response, so you should already start to feel more relaxed. You are stopping the stress response in its tracks.
If you are having trouble doing this at first, you may want to try placing your right hand over your heart. If it is comfortable, place your left hand over your right hand and then begin to breathe in and out. Closing your eyes may make this breathing technique easier. With practice, you will be able to do it with your eyes open or closed. Eventually, when you feel stressed out about something (like walking into a business meeting), you will know how to control your autonomic nervous system simply by using your breath—even if your eyes are wide open.
Try heart-focused breathing the next time you have a problem and can’t find a solution. As you breathe in and out through your heart, think about something that makes you feel unconditional love or appreciation, like your new grandchild, your pet, or an amazing sunset. While you are breathing in and out through your heart, feel the power of the positive emotion. Then ask your heart, “Give me a better solution to this situation.” And I guarantee it—your heart is going to speak.