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Want To Double Down on the Mood-Boosting Benefits of Exercise? Try an Affirmation Workout

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It’s self-care for the body and mind.

Science shows that positive self-talk during workouts is linked with better athletic performance and motivation. But the words you say to yourself while exercising don’t actually have to be about the activity, your body, or performance itself. You can do an affirmation workout that combines movement with positive self-talk about any topic for some majorly mood-boosting self-care.

“Affirmation workouts came from the idea that we wanted to literally address the mind and the body at the same time,” Alyson Stoner, cofounder of digital wellness platform Movement Genius, says on this week’s episode of The Well+Good Podcast. “It’s a chance to check in with your mindset [and] perhaps adjust some of the thoughts you were having about yourself.”

An affirmation, positive self-talk, or self-affirmation, is “any thought about oneself that is believable and vivid and that reinforces positive characteristics, abilities, or skills,” according to the American Psychological Association. The theory of self-affirmation is that maintaining and enforcing a view of yourself as “well-adapted, moral, competent, stable, and able to control important outcomes” leads to mental stability, and research shows that doing so through spoken affirmations reinforces these ideas. Some therapy treatments involve repeating affirmations to yourself daily or having go-to affirmations for when you encounter moments of struggle.

This is already a common part of many fitness experiences: It’s not unusual for spin instructors or yoga teachers to share positive, motivating words of encouragement that may or may not relate to the actual exercises. Movement Genius takes this a step further with affirmation workouts that pair 15-minute movement sessions (of varying difficulty) with a soundtrack of affirmations that are meant to be repeated to yourself. You can even select the affirmation topic for which you need an extra boost that day.

Photo: W+G Creative

“While we go through the movements, I recite particular affirmations based around whatever theme you choose,” Stoner says. For example, they say some affirmation soundtracks offer help “to tap into creativity,” while others are more centered around “alleviating stress.”

The combination makes sense. Exercise has its own mood-boosting benefits since it increases blood flow to the brain, releases endorphins, and over time stimulates the production of hormones and neurotransmitters responsible for regulating emotional disposition. Add in some self-talk while your blood flows, and the theory is you’ll have a synergy of grounding positivity. At least, that’s what Stoner sees in their students.

“We found that when people try the affirmation workouts, at the end instead of feeling depleted, people are like, how do I have more energy than when I started?” Stoner says. “I think being able to feel like you’re being filled up mind, body, and spirit, it’s a real gift.”

You can check out an affirmation workout on Movement Genius’ YouTube channel. You can also try incorporating your own affirmations into your day-to-day workouts—just be sure to first check out some tips for how to craft affirmations that feel authentic and not toxically positive. And listen to more from Stoner on the power of combining physical and mental healthcare, among other topics, on this week’s episode of The Well+Good Podcast.