Affirmations are positive phrases that you speak to yourself to help break out of negative thought patterns. Here’s how to get started using affirmations for anxiety.
Essentially, an affirmation is a mini pep talk you give yourself to help ward off your feelings of anxiety. Even if it feels silly at first, there is some solid science to back up the power of affirmations.
Here’s what you need to know to get started with positive affirmations for anxiety.
According to Dr. Renee Solomon, clinical psychologist and CEO of Forward Recovery, “Affirmations are very helpful with anxiety. The benefit of affirmations is that they allow us to rewire the brain and tell ourselves a different message.”
Here are some other potential benefits of positive self-affirmations that researchers have found:
- Increased self-worth. In a 2016 study, researchers found that self-affirmation could help promote more feelings of self-worth.
- Improved stress management. One study found that self-affirmation could help people who are chronically stressed to improve their critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the face of that stress, potentially helping make it easier to manage their stress.
- Less anxiety. Thought replacement, or removing a negative thought with a positive affirmation, could help reduce anxiety levels in people with generalized anxiety disorder.
- Increased productivity. “Executive function” refers to the skills and abilities you have to lead a productive life that helps you achieve your goals and aspirations. According to one study, positive self-affirmations may help improve executive function.
So you might say that the benefits of positive affirmations have been… positively affirmed. *ba-dum tssssh*
Here are some examples of positive affirmations that Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW, a licensed social worker and psychotherapist, shares with her clients who deal with anxiety. “Since anxiety is related to uncertainty and trepidation about the future,” she says, “we focus on a sense of safety.”
- “In this moment, I am safe.”
- “In this moment, all is well.”
- “I have survived everything that has ever happened in my life because I am here to tell about it.”
- “I am here and now, not there and then.”
- “I have support to get me through what I am facing.”
- “I see my way clear to success.”
- “I am calm now.”
- “I am relaxed.”
- “I am peaceful.”
- “I’ve got this.”
- “I trust my ability to make good decisions.”
- “I am my own cheerleader.”
Likewise, here are some affirmations that Solomon recommends for people with anxiety:
- “I am able to handle this.”
- “My anxiety is not going to kill me.”
- “I am strong enough to get through this.”
Solomon has developed a process to help her clients create their own affirmations. These personalized affirmations may be more helpful since they’re uniquely tailored to the circumstances in your own life that are triggering your anxiety. Here are the steps.
Identify your anxious thought
What is giving you anxiety?
“An example would be ‘I am going to fail my test,’” says Solomon.
However, this could be anything — small or big — that’s making you feel anxious.
List the reasons this thought isn’t true
“I advise my patients to come up with reasons that the anxious thought is not valid,” explains Solomon.
Following the test example, some reasons that disprove that thought, according to Solomon, are:
- “I studied a long time for this test.”
- “I am intelligent.”
- “I have never failed a test.”
Create affirmations from these reasons
All of these reasons from the last step can be used as affirmations.
“I encourage people to reiterate the positive affirmations that come out of this exercise on a regular basis,” says Solomon. “So I would encourage my patient to consistently remind themselves ‘I am intelligent’ and say it out loud.”
Repeat this exercise regularly
You can repeat this exercise as frequently as you need to, with any anxious thoughts. Depending on your circumstances, the affirmations you gravitate towards may naturally change. You know, “the only constant in life,” and all that.
Not sure how to use your affirmations? Or, how to remember to use your affirmations? Here are some tips from Solomon.
Recite them morning and night
Reciting your affirmations regularly is a good habit to get into.
“I encourage my patients to do this first thing in the morning and last thing at night,” says Solomon. “When they have done this on a consistent basis, it becomes a regular behavior and it is a way that they both start and finish their day.”
Keep your affirmations visible
You can also keep your affirmations written down somewhere you’ll look often. This can help you remember to say them.
“I encourage patients to write these affirmations on sticky notes on their bathroom mirrors so they are forced to see them every day,” says Solomon.
But you don’t have to stop there, either. Put them in several places so you see them regularly.
Write them and say them
Even if you don’t hang them up around your house, or recite them morning and night, writing your affirmations and saying them out loud can be helpful.
“It allows my patients to both see the affirmation and hear it, which makes it stronger than just saying it out loud,” explains Solomon. “This creates change in our brains.”
But, when is it time to talk to a mental health care professional? Honestly, if you’re asking that question, it’s prob time.
You don’t have to wait for your anxiety to reach a certain threshold before you seek help.
PSA: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a National Helpline that can help you find resources in your area. To access it, call 1-800-662-4367.
Affirmations can help you replace anxious thoughts with positive ones, which could drastically improve your mental well-being. If you can, try to personalize your affirmations to your unique circumstances, and then remember to say and write them often to help rewire your brain towards positivity.