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Can Self-Help Make You Feel Worse?

self-helpResearchers found that people with low self-esteem actually felt worse after repeating positive statements about themselves.

They said phrases such as "I am a lovable person" only helped people with high self-esteem.

The researchers asked people with high and low self-esteem to say "I am a lovable person.” They then measured the participants' moods and their feelings about themselves. In the low self-esteem group, those who repeated the mantra felt worse afterwards. However, people with high self-esteem felt slightly better after repeating the positive self-statement.

Paradoxically, those with low self-esteem were in a better mood when they were allowed to have negative thoughts than when they were asked to focus exclusively on affirmative thoughts.

The researchers suggest that like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements, such as "I accept myself completely," can provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals with low self-esteem.

Such negative thoughts can then overwhelm the positive thoughts.

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Words and phrases have been used since ancient times to help instill feelings of emotional well-being. They come in all forms -- positive affirmations, mantras, prayers -- but basically serve the same purpose of trying to bring you peace.

The study above found less than favorable results among people with low self-esteem who repeated positive statements about themselves, and this may be because it’s not so much the words themselves that matter, but rather the energy from the words.

Once you get the proper energy flowing, which I’ll discuss how to do shortly, it doesn’t matter whether you believe the affirmation or not … just saying it should provide some relief.

Further, the way you phrase your positive affirmations is very important. Ideally, they should acknowledge the problem and create self-acceptance despite the existence of the problem. That is what’s necessary for the affirmation to be effective. For instance, an effective affirmation might be:

  • "Even though I have this anger towards my father, I deeply and completely accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this stiffness in my neck, I deeply and completely accept myself."

  • "Even though I have these nightmares, I deeply and completely accept myself."

  • "Even though I have this craving for alcohol, I deeply and completely accept myself."

When used correctly, numerous studies have shown that positive affirmations can at times be very beneficial.

The Potential Benefits of Positive Affirmations

One interesting study published in the British Medical Journal showed that praying the Ave Maria in the original Latin or reciting a yoga mantra had beneficial effects on the heart.

When the participants breathed spontaneously, their respiratory rate was about 14 breaths per minute, which slowed down to almost 8 breaths per minute when they engaged in regular conversation. During recitation of the Ave Maria or the yoga mantra, however, their respiratory rate was about 6 breaths per minute.

A slow respiration rate of 6 breaths per minute has generally favorable effects on cardiovascular and respiratory function. What's more, recitation of both the Ave Maria and the yoga mantra similarly synchronized all the heart rhythms.

Another study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, meanwhile, found that repeating mantras helped hospital workers to reduce:

  • Anxiety

  • Stress from traffic and work

  • Insomnia

  • Unwanted thoughts

And a similar study in The Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing also found that repeating a mantra helped bring emotional and spiritual well-being to health care workers (who generally report being under a lot of stress).

What are the Keys to Using Positive Affirmations?

Most negative emotions, including those about the ability of positive affirmations to be effective, come about because you are tuned in to certain thoughts or circumstances, which in turn, cause your energy system to disrupt.

So to add effectiveness to your affirmations, it’s important to address this “short-circuit” in your body’s energy system using the Meridian Tapping Technique (MTT).

MTT is a form of psychological acupressure, based on the same energy meridians used in traditional acupuncture to treat physical and emotional ailments for over 5,000 years, but without the invasiveness of needles. Instead, simple tapping with your fingertips is used to input kinetic energy onto specific meridians on your head and chest while you think about your specific problem and voice positive affirmations.

This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the "short-circuit" -- the emotional block -- from your body's bioenergy system, thus restoring your mind and body's balance, which is essential for optimal health and the healing of physical disease.

I suggest you get the details about MTT by reading my free manual, but here are a few steps to give you an idea of how it works:

  • Select an appropriate affirmation

  • Carefully "tune in" to your problem by actually trying to hold the problem in your thought

  • State the affirmations in a loud voice with great passion, energy and enthusiasm (It is best to say it out loud, but if you are in a social situation where you prefer to mutter it under your breath … or do it silently … then go ahead. It will still likely be effective)

  • Simultaneously tap on one of the acupuncture meridian points

If you do these steps while tapping the correct points on your body, it is highly likely you will notice a major decrease in the issue or problem that you were tapping on. If not, you may need to move on to using advanced affirmation statements or contact an MTT practitioner to help you.

More than any traditional or alternative method I have used or researched, MTT works. I have witnessed the results in my patients since deciding to use MTT exclusively in June 2001, and because of its very high rate of success, the use of MTT has spread rapidly, and medical practitioners employing MTT can now be found in every corner of the country and world.

So if you are experiencing any type of emotional or mental disturbance, please give MTT a try. It takes the potential benefit of self-help techniques to a whole new level.