Affirmations help, says this researcher. Dinsa Sachan, Discover. March 2021.
“Do you see this?” my dentist said, pointing a scaler to a section of my gums that was popping out between two teeth. “Yeah,” I said nonchalantly, looking into the mirror he handed me. My gums had been bleeding severely in March of last year, but before I could get them checked, India went into total lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It took me until the first week of November to walk into a dental clinic. The gum infection had understandably worsened.
The dentist said I might need a surgical procedure to fix the problem. To begin with, he recommended a rigorous oral hygiene routine — massaging my gums with an ointment and rinsing my teeth with a prescription mouthwash — that I diligently followed. When I returned for my follow up three weeks later, my gums had healed so well the dentist ruled out surgery.
I wondered if an intervention that my therapist had introduced me to played a role in my astonishing recovery. At her behest, I had reluctantly started using affirmations in 2019. But, frankly, I found it too woo-woo at the time — and gave up. Lying to myself, “I remain healthy,” when I clearly wasn’t, seemed appalling.
During the pandemic lockdown, my interest in affirmations was renewed when I started doing creativity exercises in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, with an online group. Cameron’s a huge champion of affirmations. I restarted my affirmation practice a few weeks before my first dental appointment. Initially, I tried writing out affirmations and combining them with my “morning pages” — a journaling practice that’s essential to Cameron’s program. For me, this involved examining my emotional struggles before veering into more uplifting topics, such as things I was grateful for and plans for achieving various goals. Later, I switched to a verbal style.
As I began my dental treatment, I added some gum-related statements for fun: “My gums are healing quickly.” And to my surprise, that’s exactly what happened.