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 in order 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:
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
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- 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