Have you ever given yourself a pep talk?
You may not have realized it, but you were practicing a form of positive affirmation.
Coping with depression can be discouraging and debilitating. By vocalizing positive messages of encouragement to yourself, you can improve your mood and inspire motivation internally, leading toward positive change.
Affirmations are a simple and useful tool that can help with depressive symptoms.
What Is a Positive Affirmation?
A positive affirmation is a self-statement that emphasizes your strengths, values, and favorable qualities. According to cognitive theory, depression is caused by distorted negative beliefs.
Positive affirmations can be used to counter negative perceptions and bolster confidence in your abilities.
For instance, you can replace the thought, “Nobody will ever love me” with the affirmation “I am worthy of love.”
Many people who use affirmations recommend standing in front of a mirror as they repeat specific phrases to themselves, but you can perform them anywhere you feel is comfortable and effective. It’s generally recommended to repeat the affirmations at least twice daily.
Do Affirmations Work?
Positive affirmations have been associated with multiple factors related to the reduction of depressive symptoms. Self-affirmation has been shown to activate parts of the brain that are associated with positive self-valuation.
There is also evidence that suggests that affirmation increases the neural pathways related to a person’s reward centers, which undeniably boosts your mood.
Further, an affirmation can serve as a protector against stressful situations that threaten your well-being.
Maybe most importantly, the use of affirmation has been directly linked to feelings of optimism and happiness.
Keep in mind, however, the effectiveness of positive affirmations depends on their content. You need to be able to believe in what the affirmations are saying for them to be helpful. If you tell yourself something you know is not true or is unlikely to occur, it probably won’t help.
For example, if you keep saying to yourself that you look like a supermodel or are as musically talented as Adele, you are less likely to be able to convince yourself. In addition, the above research concludes that personally relevant affirmations appear more effective. Therefore, the more specific the affirmation is to your life, the better.
Finally, affirmations that focus on the future seem to be most powerful. As a result, emphasizing behavior or outcomes that you can work toward will make them more productive. It may be useful to think of an affirmation as an active roadmap for positive thoughts and behavior.
Affirmations for Coping with Depression
There are literally millions of possible affirmations. Here are 44 you can use that are specifically geared for dealing with depressive symptoms:
- I have come this far, and I am proud of myself.
- This moment in my life does not define who I am.
- My challenges bring me better opportunities.
- My life has value and meaning.
- These are just thoughts. Only I determine the way I choose to feel.
- I choose to release negative feelings and thoughts about myself.
- I will try to see the best in others.
- I believe in who I am.
- I am working toward making a better life.
- I do not need to rely on others’ judgment for acceptance.
- I do my very best and that’s enough.
- I believe in my ability to get through this difficult period.
- I am resilient and can handle problems that come my way.
- I am worthy of happiness.
- My goals are achievable.
- Depression makes me sad, but it builds my resilience.
- I feel low now, but tomorrow is another day.
- Where there is life, there is hope.
- I’m not limited to anything.
- I love myself unconditionally, no matter how I feel.
- I am not the first to deal with depression, and I won’t be the last.
- Depression is just a human emotion and I am human.
- My life is what I make it.
- I find and enjoy the simple pleasures life is offering right now.
- I experience depression but I can also experience joy.
- There is nothing wrong with me because I feel sad.
- If they can do it, there’s no reason I can’t do it.
- I am taking control of my own mind.
- My future is bright because I am designing it.
- I am just as good as anyone else.
- I am deserving of self-care.
- My life is a gift.
- Being depressed is not my fault.
- I deserve love and happiness.
- Smile and breathe.
- I look forward to tomorrow.
- This feeling will pass.
- I’m okay right now.
- I control my destiny.
- I may be sad now, but that’s fine.
- I am gaining strength every single day.
- The depression I experience doesn’t define me.
- I work on myself every day.
- I will wake up tomorrow and do the best I can.
While the above affirmations are suitable for numerous situations, one of the strengths of using affirmation is that it can be tailored to fit any area in which you are struggling.
For example, if you are lacking confidence in whether you will do well on a work presentation, you could affirm “I am prepared for today’s presentation, and I will be successful.”
Again, the more specific an affirmation is to your particular situation, the more it will resonate with you and produce positive results. Fortunately, affirmations can be made as distinct as necessary and easily changed to fit a particular circumstance.
Practicing affirmations daily is a useful tool in the fight against depression. It can improve self-image, reduce stress, increase healthy behavior, and boost mood. It is especially effective if the affirmations are personally relevant, realistic, and future-oriented. In addition, creating and performing an affirmation is a relatively simple process that only takes a few minutes.
It should be noted, however, that affirmations are not suitable as a lone treatment for depression. Clinical depression is a serious psychological disorder that often requires professional intervention. Affirmation is most effectively used as part of a treatment protocol that may also include psychotherapy, online counseling, medication, and positive lifestyle changes. While some steps for dealing with depression can be initiated independently, such as reciting positive affirmations, the most significant improvements typically result from working with a trained professionals.
- Kinnier, R. T., Hofsess, C., Pongratz, R., & Lambert, C. (2009). Attributions and affirmations for overcoming anxiety and depression. Psychology and psychotherapy, 82(Pt 2), 153–169. https://doi.org/10.1348/147608308X389418
- American Addiction Centers, Inc. (n.d.). Cognitive Theories of Major Depression – Aaron Beck. MentalHelp.Net. https://www.mentalhelp.net/depression/cognitive-theories/
- Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. (2014). The psychology of change: self-affirmation and social psychological intervention. Annual review of psychology, 65, 333–371. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010213-115137
- Cascio, C. N., O’Donnell, M. B., Tinney, F. J., Lieberman, M. D., Taylor, S. E., Strecher, V. J., & Falk, E. B. (2015). Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(4), 621–629. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsv136
- Dutcher, J. M., Creswell, J. D., Pacilio, L. E., Harris, P. R., Klein, W. M. P., Levine, J. M., Bower, J. E., Muscatell, K. A., & Eisenberger, N. I. (2016). Self-Affirmation Activates the Ventral Striatum. Psychological Science, 27(4), 455–466. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797615625989
- Creswell, J. D., Dutcher, J. M., Klein, W. M. P., Harris, P. R., & Levine, J. M. (2013). Self-Affirmation Improves Problem-Solving under Stress. PLoS ONE, 8(5), e62593. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0062593
- Emanuel, A. S., Howell, J. L., Taber, J. M., Ferrer, R. A., Klein, W. M., & Harris, P. R. (2018). Spontaneous self-affirmation is associated with psychological well-being: Evidence from a US national adult survey sample. Journal of health psychology, 23(1), 95–102. https://doi.org/10.1177/1359105316643595
MS Broudy is a psychologist, writer, and consultant. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and a master’s degree in Social Psychology. He has spent over 20 years providing therapy and assessment services for a diverse set of clients. MS specializes in writing about mental health, parenting, and wellness. He has his own blog, mentalspokes.com, where he writes about psychological issues.
Image courtesy of Binti Malu.