Repeating positive thoughts or phrases may help manage the negative thinking associated with depression.

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If you live with depression, persistent sadness and low moods can sometimes feel debilitating. You may find even the simplest tasks overwhelming or have difficulty seeing the positives in anything.

But what if there was a simple intervention that could help you shift your mindset and see things in a more positive light?

Practicing positive affirmations for depression — a technique of repeating optimistic thoughts and phrases — may be able to positively influence your mental health.

Positive affirmations are thoughts or phrases used to increase optimistic feelings and counteract the effects of negative thinking.

Repeating positive affirmations to yourself may help retrain your brain to think in a more balanced way.

Research on the effects of positive affirmations on depression is limited. Currently, more research is needed to uncover the mechanisms of affirmations and their role in mental health.

However, a 2014 study suggested that using affirmations may help some people gain a broader perspective of themselves and their current situation.

This may create a positive feedback loop that could potentially help mitigate the impact of negative thoughts.

Additional research indicates that positive affirmations may initiate beneficial changes in the brain. A 2016 study using MRI evidence suggested that affirmations activate certain parts of the brain associated with self-processing, self-insight, and valuation.

Research from 2015 indicated that positive affirmations can potentially have an impact on neural pathways in the brain.

Affirmations can redirect thought processes in the brain. They may be useful to help manage the unhelpful thoughts associated with depression.

Positive affirmations aren’t considered a cure for depression, but they might help with managing your mood in the short term and be an effective addition to your treatment plan.

Counteracting negativity bias

“The brain has a naturally developed ‘negativity bias,’ [which helped keep] the earliest humans alive and fairly safe,” says Carrie C. Mead, a licensed professional clinical counselor at Maryland Counseling in Westminster, Maryland.

“However, in modern times, this same mechanism means that we are pre-wired, to some degree, to see the negatives in each situation more predominately than the positives.”

According to Mead, positive affirmations may help counteract this negativity bias.

Cognitive restructuring

“Positive affirmations can be very helpful to combat depression,” Mead explains. “They offer the brain cognitive restructuring.”

According to Mead, more exposure to positive affirmations can help rewire the brain due to its neuroplasticity.

With depression, the idea of practicing positive affirmations may feel overwhelming. Depression may make it harder for you to feel hopeful about anything, including yourself or your situation.

Starting out slow may be the most effective route to practicing positive affirmations.

Try choosing one affirmation at a time and making it a part of your daily routine. You may discover it’s easier and more impactful than you realized.

Tips for incorporating positive affirmations

To start practicing positive affirmations for depression, you could try:

  • setting aside a few minutes to repeat one affirmation right when you wake up or immediately before bed
  • writing an affirmation on a sticky note and placing it on your bathroom mirror and repeating it every time you see it
  • adding affirmations to your daily exercise, commute, or meditation time

Despite their potential to help depression, positive affirmations aren’t enough to cope with all your symptoms.

If you’re having difficulty managing your depression, you’re not alone. There are treatment options that can help you feel better.

Incorporating positive affirmations into your daily life can feel a little overwhelming when you have depression.

If you want to get started but don’t know where to begin, these 18 phrases may be a good place to start:

  1. I am safe right now.
  2. It is not my fault that I have depression.
  3. There are reasons for my depression, and I will overcome them.
  4. I am strong and resilient.
  5. I have made it through other challenges, and I will make it through this one.
  6. My depression does not define me.
  7. I have agency in my life, and depression does not need to control me.
  8. I am valuable even when I am not productive.
  9. I deserve happiness and joy.
  10. I am enough and don’t have to prove anything to anyone else.
  11. It is OK to feel sad today because tomorrow is a fresh start.
  12. I am not alone with my depression because many people also experience it.
  13. I am navigating depression as best I can.
  14. I am proud of how I got through this day.
  15. I am overcoming depression one step at a time.
  16. People love me, and I am worthy of their love.
  17. The negative things my mind says about me aren’t helpful.
  18. I am grateful for my [family, friends, animal companion, or anything you hold dear].

You don’t have to be a born writer to create your own positive affirmations. Any phrase that represents your situation or line of thinking in a more balanced way can help.

After all, you know yourself best and what’s most important to you. You also understand what you need to hear to feel better.

Create statements to balance negative thinking

When you have an unhelpful thought, try to come up with statements that might contradict it. According to Mead, the goal of positive affirmations is to balance the negative thoughts, rather than eliminate them completely.

Practice thinking new thoughts

Mead notes that the thoughts with more helpful statements can help you feel more hopeful. Repeating unhelpful thoughts can disrupt your inner world. But replacing those thoughts with hopeful, positive statements can help you feel more hopeful and calm.

Over time, repeating positive affirmations may help with developing a more balanced and helpful outlook.

Although positive affirmations aren’t a cure for depression, they can be a helpful addition to a treatment plan for some.

Positive affirmations may help retrain your brain to see yourself or your situation in a more helpful and balanced way, leading to improvements in mood and some depression symptoms.

Still, the sadness, low energy, and reduced ability to have a positive outlook that can accompany depression might make practicing positive affirmations challenging at first.

However, adopting this technique can be done at any time, virtually anywhere. With routine and practice, positive affirmations become easier and more ingrained in your everyday life.

If you’re living with depression, it can be beneficial to reach out to your doctor or therapist for guidance. When you are ready to get help, visit Psych Central’s guide to seeking support for mental health and wellness.