An affirmation describes a specific type of positive statement usually directed toward yourself with the intent of promoting change and self-love while squashing worry and fear.
As a type of positive self-talk, affirmations can help you alter subconscious thoughts.
Repeating a supportive, encouraging phrase gives it power, since hearing something often makes it more likely you’ll believe it. In turn, your belief makes it more likely you’ll act in ways that make your affirmation become reality.
Affirmations can help strengthen self-worth by boosting both your positive opinion of yourself and your confidence in your ability to achieve your goals. They can also help counter the feelings of panic, stress, and self-doubt that often accompany anxiety.
When anxious thoughts overwhelm you and make it difficult to focus on more positive possibilities, affirmations can help you take back control and begin altering these thought patterns.
Affirmations can help you create and reinforce new attitudes and behavior patterns, but they can’t magically erase anxiety.
Here’s what they can do:
- improve your mood
- boost self-esteem
- increase motivation
- help you solve problems
- boost optimism
- help you address negative thoughts
When it comes to anxiety in particular, keeping affirmations grounded in reality can make a big difference in their impact. If you try to tell yourself you can do things that aren’t realistic, you might struggle to believe yourself and return to a mindset where you feel incapable and unsuccessful.
Say you have a lot of worries about financial concerns. Repeating “I will win the lottery” every day, however positively, may not help much. An affirmation like, “I have the talent and experience to find a better paying job,” on the other hand, may encourage you to work toward this change.
Affirming yourself, in other words, helps improve your ability to weather difficulties.
Feeling capable of handling any challenges that arise can often put you in a better position to work toward lasting change.
If you’ve started exploring affirmations already, you’ve probably found plenty of lists, along with some advice to “Choose affirmations that resonate most with you.”
That’s sound guidance, but there’s an even better way to find affirmations that feel natural and right: Create them yourself.
Consider the common affirmation: “I am fearless.”
What if you have plenty of fears and anxiety only brings them into sharper focus? You can repeat this affirmation over and over, but if you don’t really believe you’re fearless, it’s unlikely you’ll become fearless from the affirmation alone.
Reworking it into something more believable and useful might leave you with: “I have anxious thoughts, but I also have the power to challenge and change them.”
Ready to get started? Keep these tips in mind.
Begin with “I” or “My”
A first-person perspective can tie affirmations more strongly to your sense of self. This makes them more relevant to specific goals, which makes them easier to believe.
Keep them in the present tense
Maybe “I’ll feel more confident talking to people next year” seems like a good goal.
Affirmations aren’t exactly goals, though. You use them to rewrite existing thought patterns linked to anxious and self-defeating thoughts. By setting them in the future, you’re telling yourself, “Sure, that can happen eventually.”
But this may not have much impact on your present behavior. Instead, structure your affirmation as if it’s already true. This increases the chance you’ll behave in ways that actually make it true.
For example: “I have the confidence to speak to strangers and make new friends.”
Don’t be afraid to accept anxious thoughts
If you live with anxiety, you might find it helpful to acknowledge this in your affirmations. It’s part of you, after all, and centering affirmations around reality can give them more power.
Stick to positive phrasing, though, and focus on realistic reflections of what you want to gain.
- Instead of: “I won’t let my anxious thoughts affect my work any longer.”
- Try: “I can manage my worries around failure and achieve my goals in spite of them.”
Tie them to core values and successes
Connecting affirmations to your core values reminds you of what’s most important to you.
As you repeat these affirmations, you reinforce your sense of self along with belief in your own abilities, which can lead to greater self-empowerment.
If you value compassion, affirming this value can help you remember self-compassion is just as essential:
- “I extend the same kindness to myself that I show my loved ones.”
Affirmations can also help counter self-defeating thoughts when you use them to remind yourself of previous accomplishments:
- “I feel stressed, but it will pass. I can manage feelings of panic and regain my calm, since I’ve done it before.”
Now that you have a few affirmations to get you started, how do you actually use them?
There’s no right or wrong answer, but these tips can help you make the most of them.
Create a daily routine
Repeating affirmations in a stressful moment can help, but they generally have the most impact when you use them regularly instead of just when you need them most.
Think of them as any other habit. You need to practice regularly in order to see lasting change, right?
Commit to affirming yourself for at least 30 days. Just keep in mind it might take a little longer to see improvement.
Set aside a few minutes 2 or 3 times a day to repeat your affirmations. Many people find it helpful to use affirmations first thing in the morning and just before bed.
Whatever time you settle on, try to stick to a consistent routine. Aim for 10 repetitions of each affirmation — unless you have a lucky number that inspires more positivity.
If you’re a proponent of “Seeing is believing,” try repeating your affirmations in front of a mirror. Concentrate on them and believe them to be true instead of just rattling them off.
You can even make affirmations part of your daily meditation practice or use visualizations to really see them as reality.
Keep them current
You can always revisit and restructure your affirmations to make them more effective.
As time passes, check in with yourself. Are the affirmations helping you maintain control over your worries and practice self-compassion when you get down on yourself? Or do they have little impact since you don’t believe them yet?
When you notice them working, use this success as inspiration — it may even spark a new affirmation.
Keep them where you can see them
Seeing your affirmations regularly can help keep them front and center in your thoughts.
- writing sticky notes or memos to leave around your house and on your desk
- setting them as notifications on your phone
- beginning daily journal entries by writing your affirmations
Anxiety can sometimes become serious enough to affect all areas of life, including:
- physical wellness
- performance at school and work
- daily responsibilities
Affirmations can absolutely have benefit as a self-help strategy, but if you live with severe or persistent anxiety symptoms, they may not be enough to help you see relief.
If your anxiety is affecting your daily life, speak with a doctor about your symptoms. Sometimes, symptoms can be due to an underlying medical issue.
Many people need a therapist’s support when learning to manage their anxiety symptoms, and that’s perfectly normal. It doesn’t mean your affirmations aren’t good enough.
A therapist can help you begin exploring underlying causes of anxiety, which affirmations don’t address. Learning more about what triggers anxiety symptoms can help you find ways to effectively cope with those triggers.
Many people find affirmations to be powerful tools for changing unwanted thought patterns and beliefs — but they don’t work for everyone.
If affirmations feel ineffective or add to your distress, that doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. It just means you might benefit from another type of support.
Affirmations can lead to a more positive self-image over time, but they aren’t all-powerful. If you aren’t seeing much improvement, reaching out to a therapist may be a more helpful step.
Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.