Can I use affirmations to improve my mental health?

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are mantras or sayings that are repeated regularly to ourselves that can improve negative thought patterns. They are normally a couple of words or short phrase that contains particular meaning for us, something we want to feel and remember. For example, someone who is struggling with self-esteem in relationships might have an affirmation of “you are worthy of love and care”. Or someone who is a perfectionist might choose an affirmation of “My best is good enough”. They are very personal so each person’s ideal affirmation would be very different, depending on what challenges you are currently trying to overcome. 

How do they work?

We believe that using an affirmation starts to change your mindset. We can be very stuck in our ways and beliefs about ourselves in ways that are not helpful. A bit like an athlete using visualisation to imagine themselves completing the perfect long jump, affirmations can help us achieve our goals and improve our wellbeing. This is because imagining being or feeling a certain way can change the way our minds think about things. If you consider how many of our negative thoughts become self-fulfilling prophecies (like “I will never be good at public speaking”) you can see how positive thoughts can have the opposite effect. Just like we flex our muscles to become stronger, flexing our positive thinking muscles can help us think in a more balanced, positive way. 

How do I use affirmations

Firstly, it is important to understand what is meaningful for you; what challenges are you currently facing, what is making you feel low or bad about yourself? Or what strengths do you have that you want to remind yourself of in difficult times? Once you have your affirmation in mind, repeat it to yourself when you need a boost. Some people like to do this in front of a mirror and say it aloud  while others prefer to repeat it in their heads. Whatever works for you is fine, but try to keep to just one or two affirmations at any time. You might find it useful to use them at key times, like when you are feeling anxious, sad or angry. Over time you are training your brain to think differently and more positively and change or balance lost-standing patterns of negative automatic thoughts. A an effective way to use them is:

  • Repeat them around 10 times a day
  • Use visualisation if possible to make the thought even stronger 
  • Really listen to what you are saying rather than going through the motions – feel what the words mean
  • Be patient. Just like exercise, one attempt doesn’t make us strong. It takes some practise and commitment before we see the results. 

Examples of affirmations

“I can stay calm even when I am frustrated”

“I will let go of things I cannot change”

“I am good at my job and am making a difference every day”

“I appreciate what my body does for me everyday to keep me alive and I will look after it”

Do they work for everyone

No. Everyone is individual and no one tool will be beneficial for every person. If you find you are battling with strong negative thoughts that are impacting your wellbeing or feel unmanageable, it is always worthwhile speaking to a counsellor to help you identity the sources of these thoughts and how to bring them more under your control. They will also help you identify other tools and strategies to cope with these thoughts in a safe and non-judgemental space. 

“You cannot stop the waves but you can learn to surf”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

One thought on “Can I use affirmations to improve my mental health?

  1. I love your explanation of affirmations and the examples you give throughout the post. I do however believe that affirmations can work for everyone, as long as the person believes in them and practices consistently. Seeing a counsellor or therapist is always a good idea too.


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