Affirmations – The Science Behind Why They Work

Twentieth century scientists had a revolution of discovery in regards to the mind and the brain. The brain we had as a child is not the brain we are stuck with. The chemistry and connections in our mind can change. Through free will, our mind can accept new thoughts and create new realities.

The Brain

The same ingredients that make up a liver also create a brain out of which we have a thinking mind. Man is a conscious thinking being. The computer that I am typing on can take in input and give output, but it is not aware that it is doing so. Man is aware. He can perceive and process.

Our brain communicates through chemicals. Neurons (cells) are connected by axons and dendrites. The axons reach out to other cells to distribute information, and the dendrites receive information from those cells.

These chemical connections form as we go through experience. Try to move your right big toe, and only your right big toe. Can you do it? Most likely you cannot move your right big toe without moving the adjacent toes. This is because your mind has mapped those areas of your feet together. Through repetition of walking your mind has associated your toes as one entity and connected the neurons that control your toes together.

Experience creates connections in our mind and repetition strengthens those connections. For a visual analogy, think of a car that has gone down a dirt road so many times that is has made permanent groves. The groves compel the car to travel in this spot on the road each time it passes by. This is the basis of habit formation. Our tendencies are groves worn into our minds by our life experiences.

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As children, our parents, our environment, our school, the movements we made, all of it created the physiology of our brains. That is why many of our habits and beliefs can be traced back to our childhood. The next logical question is then, “Can I change the physical connections of my mind to change my habits, behaviors and life?” Fortunately the answer is yes.


Scientists were amazed when they realized that the brains of amputees rewired based on the absent limb. When the brain of Victor Quintero was examined, the concept of phantom limb pain was discovered. Quintero lost his left arm at age 17 in a car accident. When scientists swiped a cotton ball past Quintero’s left cheek, he not only felt the movement on his cheek but also on his missing hand. His brain had rewired the real estate devoted to his left hand to his left cheek, called cortical remapping.

This phenomenon has also been observed in people with focal hand dystonia. Focal hand dystonia occurs when hand movements are repeated over and over again, as would been occur in concert musicians. As they repeatedly practice fast complex musical passages for hours on end, their brain begins to rewire and combine the signals is receives from each of the individual fingers. The mind sees the digits as one. In focal hand dystonia, a person loses the ability to move their fingers individually. Just as we cannot move our big tow independent of the others, people with focal hand dystonia cannot move a single finger without moving the others. This is a devastating diagnosis to someone who has dedicated their life to music. The treatment? To remap the brain through forced individual finger movement. Just as the mind saw two fingers as one, you can teach the mind to see the fingers individually again.

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Change Your Life

The experiences in life are in large part determined by individual beliefs. As we have seen through the examples above, constant repetition creates and strengthen connections in our brain. For instance, if you were told, over-and-over again, that you were poor, you would have physically created connections in your mind to reinforce the belief of being poor. You would have habits that supported those beliefs and a resulting reality of being poor.

However, just as the musicians with focal hand dystonia, we can rewire our brain, the actual physical connections in our brain, by introducing and repeating new life affirming beliefs. Affirmations repeated continuously, can create new neural connections, that in a very real physical sense, change our physiology and support new habits and behaviors that can change life.

We do not have the brain of our youth. Our brains, not just our minds or our thoughts, but our actual physical brains are in flux and responding to our environment and sensory input continuously. This is where we get our mind power.

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by Danea Horn