How To Use Words of Affirmation

How would you use words of affirmation in your daily life?

Life is hectic. It is too easy to be swept away by wave after wave of bad news. On the other hand, restructuring our thoughts to focus on gratitude and a positive mindset is a helpful way to lower stress levels when everything else seems to be going wrong. Likewise, positive words of affirmation can help offset the stress or false beliefs that accompany everyday life.

In this article, we answer the following questions:

  • What are words of affirmation exactly?
  • Do words of affirmation actually help reduce stress?
  • When should you use words of affirmation?

So let’s hop to it!

Words of affirmations can be any phrase that helps re-wire your brain to think more positively.

Words of Affirmation: What Are They?

When people talk about affirmations, they can mean a wide variety of things! For example, you can affirm someone’s gender identity by using their pronouns or chosen name. People also use affirmations to remind themselves that they are not alone in their mental health struggles.

For the purpose of this article, I am focusing on positive words of affirmation.

These are phrases that you can say to yourself to help reduce stress, promote a sense of self-confidence, and maintain perspective. Positive Psychology defines affirmations as “positive phrases or statements that are used to challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts.”

One example of a positive affirmation is “I breathe in relaxation and breathe out tension.” When I say this to myself, I imagine my heart-rate slowing, my shoulders loosening, and my stress melting away. I find it particularly helpful if I am struggling to fall asleep!

Other positive affirmations include:

  • I am not alone
  • I am strong and capable of achieving my goals
  • My mind is clearing and I am in control
  • I can take care of myself
  • I am valuable and worthy of love

Simply put, affirmations can be any phrase that resonates with you.

Where’s The Science?

Here at Science Backing Wellness, we believe that we can use evidence-based strategies to improve our lives. So what research exists to support the use of affirmations to improve mental health?

Self-affirmation theory (Steele, 1988) states that we can improve our mental health by telling ourselves positive things about ourselves. Therefore, if we tell ourselves we can achieve something, we are more likely to do it. Likewise, if you are constantly berating yourself, you are more likely to have lower self-confidence and self-efficacy.

Similar to actively practicing gratitude, self-affirmations require practice. If you are in a state of mind where you are used to criticizing yourself, saying something positive takes a conscious effort. Positive self-talk does not come easily to a lot of people! Especially if those people are struggling with mental illness.

But, like most self-care, you can learn positive self-talk and practice it until it becomes natural!

Words of affirmation simply have to resonate with you. They may feel uncomfortable at first, but eventually, they will become more natural.

In a study assessing people who recovered from anxiety and depression, words of affirmation were critical in their recovery! The most effective phrases included the following:

  • I am not crazy
  • I will not go crazy
  • My problem is very common. Many people live with it and I am not alone.
  • The power to heal myself is within me. I can do it.
  • This will not last, even if at times it feels that way. In time I will get better.

Likewise, another study conducted by Shifeng and colleagues found that people who reflected on their positive personal values were less likely to be anxious throughout the pandemic.

Simply, affirmations are a mindful way to interrupt rumination and reframe your perspective!

When Should You Use Words of Affirmation?

Practicing words of affirmation can interrupt negative self-talk, and improve self-efficacy and self-confidence

Perhaps the question should be, when shouldn’t you use words of affirmation? That list would certainly be much shorter!

When I first made the conscious choice to use positive self-talk, I incorporated it into my morning routine. Why? I needed a time and a place where I could practice! Scheduling it into my morning made sure that I started my day off right, with a positive mindset.

I would wake up, and one of my first thoughts became “today is a good day, and I am capable of making it a good day”.

Once positive self-talk became more of a habit (and alongside my other mindfulness practices), I was able to recognize when my thoughts weren’t positive. I found it easier to identify negative or destructive ways of thinking. Once I had identified those thought patterns, I replaced them with something happier!

Positive self-talk can be used before bed, when you wake up, or when you go to the bathroom. You can give yourself a pep talk right before a big meeting! Or you could focus on positive affirmations on your way home from work! Scheduling a reminder on your phone can help bring it to your attention, and there are many apps that will even share positive affirmations with you in order to start the habit!

So when should you use words of affirmation? All the time and any time! But, particularly when you feel yourself beginning to go down that negative spiral of rumination.

You Are Capable of Making Today A Good Day

Words of affirmation are a low commitment, high reward way of reminding yourself that you are a strong and valuable person. Even if you don’t believe it at first. When these words become a habit, there is less room in your head for negative self-talk.

And if loving affirmations are too much of a leap at first, you can always start with something neutral.

If “I love the way I feel in my body” seems too unrealistic, feel free to start with “my body keeps me alive and gets me where I need to go”. If “I am a strong individual in charge of my own life” seems like a stretch, start with “I can make my own day a little brighter”.

Ultimately, this is a superpower we all have, as long as we stay committed and hopeful.

Thank you for reading this week’s article! If you enjoyed our topic of affirmations, please subscribe to hear our weekly wellness news! And if this article resonated with you, please write your positive words of affirmation in the comments!

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