Positive affirmations are a useful coping skill when learning how to respond to life’s stressors. They are one of the most common coping skills used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and I often encourage people to use them as the first line of defense against their symptoms of depression and anxiety. Following are some tips on how to create positive affirmations to help you better manage your daily stressors.
How To Create Positive Affirmations
First, put a stop to negative self-talk. Thoughts like…
• This won't work
• This is too hard
• I’m too old/young/overweight/ugly
…perpetuate negative life outcomes. Instead, you can take control of your subconscious mind by flooding it with believable positive affirmations daily and in every situation. (Hint: In order for positive affirmations to work, they must be in line with your specific values and beliefs, otherwise they will feel phony and inauthentic.)
Second, create statements in the present tense. This will get your brain to start thinking differently in the here and now. To get started finding the right positive affirmations, use your exact negative self-talk statements and turn them around. Remember to keep them present tense and avoid using the words "try" or "trying", but rather, list each statement as a fact. Some examples:
• I have energy, I can do this.
• I'm happy and content.
• I'm self-confident and worthy.
• My body is healthy and strong.
• I comprehend and retain what I study.
• My mind is relaxed. I am calm and in control of my thoughts.
• I feel love and I give love.
Third, give yourself 5 extra minutes in the bathroom (or the car, or the bed, or wherever your own personal safe space is) to imagine that you exist in a universe where these affirmations are already true and real. Repeat these affirmations to yourself regularly until you truly own them.
Do Positive Affirmations Really Work?
Watching 16-year-old Laurie Hernandez of the U.S. women's gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro was proof positive. This extraordinary athlete was seen several times mouthing the words, "I've got this". No matter what kind of pressure she faced, she gave herself one final positive affirmation before beginning each event.
People who experience low self-esteem or depression have the most to benefit from positive affirmations. It is ironic, therefore, that this is also a segment of the population that struggles the most with coming up with the right positive affirmations, using them consistently, and believing them. Just know that if the positive affirmations you come up with are a part of your value system, your subconscious will accept them as truth and attract more situations and outcomes that are positive.
A trained therapist can really help you dig into your values and needs to find those positive affirmations that are customized to you. They will also act as an accountability partner to get you to use these affirmations routinely until they work.