A Guide to Affirmations and How to Use Them
Find out what affirmations are and how they can shift your perspective.
Posted May 26, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams
- Affirmations are statements that we say to ourselves that can shift our mindset and make us feel better about ourselves.
- The human brain can change even into adulthood. The more we repeat positive thoughts, the easier it is to recall them later.
- Some tips for using affirmations include saying them out loud, using the present tense, and choosing personally meaningful statements.
Is it sometimes hard for you to believe in yourself? Do you struggle to think positively? Or does your mind always seem to be able to find the worst-case scenarios? Then daily affirmations may be a useful tool to help you shift your mindset in ways that improve your life.
What Are Affirmations?
Affirmations are statements that we say to ourselves that can shift our minds in ways that can make us feel better about ourselves and our lives. They don't make our thoughts come true. Rather, they help us think in ways that make our lives better.
Are Affirmations Good for Well-Being?
Researchers suggest that deliberate thought processes—like self-affirmations—can be made automatic over time (Paulhus & Coue, 1993). We also know from neuroplasticity studies that the human brain can change and grow, even into adulthood (Demarin & Morovic, 2014). More specific to affirmations, the more we repeat these positive statements and the more we have these positive thoughts, the easier it can be to have these thoughts again in the future.
Research suggests that affirmations can help us maintain our self-esteem in the context of threat (Critcher, Dunning, & Armor, 2010). For example, if a boss is harsh, critical, or dismissive, affirmations may help us continue to feel good about ourselves. When we put this research together, the evidence is compelling that affirmations can be good for well-being.
How to Use Affirmations
Here are some tips to get started:
- Say affirmations out loud.
- Use the present tense.
- Try not to highlight the negative.
- Choose meaningful affirmations.
Learn more about these steps here.
Different Kinds of Affirmations
Everyone is different, so it's best to choose affirmations that feel the best to you. You could try the affirmation, "I am full of love." Someone else may prefer, "I am strong and capable," or "I am fine just the way I am." Explore the following affirmations to see if you find some that feel good to you.
- I grow and improve every day.
- I appreciate the opportunities I've been given.
- My life is full of potential.
- I give myself permission to be myself.
- I have the power to change.
- I am courageous.
- I’m allowed to have needs and take up space.
- I have value.
- I am worthy of love.
- I am enough.
Starting an Affirmation Journal
If you think that affirmations may be helpful to you, one way to use this strategy more often is to start daily journaling. You might start by writing a few morning affirmations or explore journaling ideas and prompts to get yourself going. You may also want to elaborate on each affirmation to help strengthen it. For example, if you write, "I am full of love," you might go on to write about the loving thoughts or feelings you have.
Starting a morning affirmation practice can be a fun way to cultivate more positive emotions. Be careful not to expect magic, though. Instead, focus on small improvements over time that can help you feel better about yourself or your life.
Adapted from a post at The Berkeley Well-Being Institute.
Paulhus, D. L., & COUÉ, E. (1993). Bypassing the will: The automatization of affirmations. JMS, 4, 1.
Demarin, V., & Moroic, S. (2014). Neuroplasticity. Periodicum biologorum, 116(2), 209-211.
Critcher, C. R., Dunning, D., & Armor, D. A. (2010). When self-affirmations reduce defensiveness: Timing is key. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(7), 947-959.