WHAT do Charlize Theron, Zooey Deschanel, Renee Zellweger and Bradley Cooper all have in common? They've all trained at Equinox, one of LA's most expensive and exclusive gyms. The hottest class of them all, which the celebs are clamouring for, is the IntenSati method.
The exercise class was created by Patricia Moreno, who claims that by shouting out positive affirmations while doing high-energy cardio moves means that: "You'll not only open your heart but also get it beating superfast".
A typical IntenSati class involves a lot of shouting out of positive affirmations such as "I am strong", "I am powerful and I accept it", and "I am guaranteed to succeed" while doing a really intense aerobics class. Patricia now joins the ranks of super trainers Tracy Anderson by being declared "one of 10 women who shape the world" by Shape magazine.
The idea that adding affirmations to a simple aerobics class would take it to a whole different super-fitness level intrigued me. Ever since I first discovered self-help pioneers Tony Robbins and Louise Hay at 18 years of age, I've voraciously consumed books on well-being and self help. Many, if not all of them, mention affirmations, but, if I am honest, I haven't ever had much success with them.
So what is an affirmation? They are short, powerful statements so when you say them, think them or even hear them, they become the thoughts that create your reality. In short, affirmations become your conscious thoughts.
The idea behind an affirmation is that your subconscious mind is continuously affirming statements to your body. Everything from "I am going to be late" to "I have a slow metabolism", to "I have terrible luck in relationships" is considered an affirmation which enters your mind and thus becomes true. The theory of using affirmations is that you can re-programme this by continuously focusing on and saying positive statements, implanting them in your mind to direct it towards your goals.
Let's just say I was cynical -- before I consulted Andrew Smith, a Blackrock-based astrologer.
"The real reason The Secret [by Rhonda Byrne] didn't work for so many people is that it focused on the action of saying something, rather than the 'feeling aspect' of it, which is the important one.
"This would also explain why generic affirmations in books rarely work for people as they are so generalised they will evoke little feeling inside of you and therefore have little effect."
I decided there was far too much good press about using affirmations to ignore them and so I signed up for a free course on how to make affirmations work for me on website Affirming Spirit (www.affirmingspirit.com)
The course involved a series of exercises, one a day for six days. On the first day I was instructed to compile a list, an inventory of what I was unhappy about in my life. The following day I had to write how I felt about each item. I really didn't enjoy this and I found that it brought up quite a lot of negative feelings.
At the same time, though, I realised that some of the things I felt were ridiculous, such as being worried about my friends being jealous of me if I was successful. Strangely it came up so I wrote it down.
The next day I was instructed to write how I would prefer to feel about each area of my life on the inventory list. I had been focusing on the bad things that could happen, so it felt strange to write out what I really wanted to feel and I actually found this quite difficult.
The key thing here is that people must write out how they personally want to feel so, for example, if someone wanted to lose weight, rather than writing "I want to lose weight" which is a generic statement, they should say "I feel slim in my red dress at Kelly's party". It's a personal statement and evokes real feelings.
On the fifth day, I had to circle which top three areas of my life were most important -- the idea being that I would only focus on these for the moment so as not to get overwhelmed. On the last day I had to take my top three priority areas and make positive statements about how I wanted to feel from what I had written, so the affirmations I made were based upon my personal feelings.
I would like to be cynical here and say it's all rubbish and the ideas are ridiculously simplistic, but I did enjoy the lifestyle inventory, and I did enjoy writing out how I want to feel.
At the start of every year, I have written some sort of a goal-type list of things I hope to achieve, only to find it a few months later and notice I have achieved nothing on it. The one key thing that I now realise I missed was that I never addressed how I wanted to feel at the end of the process of achieving the ambitious goal list. I now see how important it is to focus on the feeling at the end of the achievement, rather than just absentmindedly writing down things I'd like to have or do.
I'm not at the stage where anything dramatic is happening, but I do notice myself about to say things like "the traffic will be awful" and trying to replace them with something positive like "I am sure I will get there on time" and it certainly does remove some of my stress.
Another thing I have noticed just from hanging around friends is that it is much more pleasant to be with people who make optimistic statements about the future rather than those who moan all the time, no matter how justified.
I am definitely guilty of being one of those, but now that I have read about the effect it might be having on my life, I will try to change it.