Adding positive affirmations to your daily routine can help improve mental health, boost self-esteem, and promote overall wellness.

You’ve likely heard of self-affirmation, but you might not know exactly what it means.

While you may imagine someone standing in front of a mirror, repeating a phrase over and over again, there’s more to establishing a positive affirmations practice.

Using positive affirmations can help you improve mental health and promote overall well-being, even for those experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other challenges.

Positive affirmations are straightforward statements, such as “I am loved” or “I let go,” used to accomplish goals, overcome negative thoughts, and boost self-confidence.

“Negative thoughts can develop into patterns of behavior, preventing us from achieving our goals and impacting our mental health,” says Juliana McBride Haigh, an associate marriage and family therapist in Sierra Madre, California.

Affirmations are a way of challenging these thoughts and behaviors. Haigh recommends thinking of them as “an opportunity to remind yourself that you have strengths, characteristics, and power, regardless of what negative thoughts may be telling you.”

There are many ways to use positive affirmations to accomplish your goals.

While some folks prefer to repeat a statement aloud, others may favor writing out or recording their affirmations.

“Especially when you’re building up a practice, talking to yourself in the mirror may feel uncomfortable and possibly discourage you from continuing. Find what works for you and give yourself permission to try something different if it isn’t working,” encourages Haigh.

This could mean:

  • a sticky note attached to your mirror or your computer screen
  • a notecard taped to your car’s dashboard
  • a voice memo on your phone that you listen to whenever you want
  • writing the same positive statement a set number of times
  • repeating your affirmations aloud in the mirror, shower, or car

You may also want to consider combining a self-affirmation practice with other self-help techniques or strategies, such as goal-setting, visualization, or positive thinking.

When to practice

Haigh recommends building a daily routine and choosing a time of day when you can practice your affirmations freely and without distraction.

“Think about when you need a little boost. Right before work? Right before you go to bed? Figure out a routine you can do once a day and stick with that for a week.”

Haigh suggests starting with a few minutes each day and adding or subtracting time as needed.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, so it’s important to stay consistent and be patient. With regular practice, you’ll begin to notice a shift over time.

At first, try to complete 21 days with your daily practice of positive affirmations. This could be, for example, repeating your statements during telecommuting or listening to audio while you go to sleep.

If you’re looking for a starter kit, here are some examples of positive affirmations that you could consider:

  • “I find joy in everything I do.”
  • “My body is healthy and my mind is at peace.”
  • “Opportunities come my way easily and effortlessly.”
  • “I enjoy loving and respectful relationships.”
  • “I am confident and I am enough.”
  • “I am dealing with this the best way I can and that is enough.”
  • “I let go and I’m at peace.”
  • “I am safe, I am strong, I am well.”
  • “I see the positive in every situation.”
  • “I’m ready and capable to handle everything.”
  • “I am loved and supported by the Universe.”
  • “I forgive myself.”
  • “Today I take another step toward positive change.”
  • “I am Love and I am Light. All is well.”
  • “I deserve love and happiness.”
  • “I am enough.”
  • “I love myself yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”
  • “I am worthy of love.”
  • “Productivity does not define my value.”
  • “I am at peace in my body, my mind, and my life.”

General positive affirmations can be useful, but adding a personal touch might resonate more with you.

“You want it to pack a punch. It should make you feel something when you read, say, or think it. You want it to be personal,” offers Haigh.

  • Identify areas of improvement and establish goals for each.
  • Turn these goals into statements — those are your positive affirmations. In other words, say it like it’s already a fact.
  • Keep it real and focus on attainable goals.
  • Don’t worry about how they’ll become true.
  • Identify your own frequent negative thoughts and rewrite them as positive statements.
  • Don’t overthink it and keep your statements simple.

You can create or use any positive affirmations that resonate with you. But try to keep these tips in mind:

  • keep them short. “I am Light” may work better than, “I am light in the Universe and illuminate everything around me.”
  • say them as a fact, not a possibility. Consider, “I am prosperous” rather than, “I can make money.”
  • avoid using negatives. Try, “I am successful” instead of, “I don’t fail,” or “I am unique,” instead of, “I am not defined by the opinions of others.”
  • use present tense. “I am healthy” may be more effective than, “I will heal” or “I am healing.”
  • be persistent. Try to work with 3 to 5 positive affirmations at a time for a couple of weeks before switching to new ones.

Negative thoughts get in our way and prevent us from going on that date, asking for that promotion, advocating for ourselves, holding our boundaries, asking for help, being vulnerable. They make us feel small and scared and timid,” says Haigh.

Positive affirmations can be an effective tool in overcoming these thoughts and promoting positive mental health and overall well-being.

“Everyone has negative thoughts in some way, shape, or form. And we can challenge them. Affirmations are one way of helping to bring yourself back to center and empower you to make choices that work for you rather than coming from fear.

Research backs this up.

A 2016 study examined the relationship between self-affirmation and brain neurons, particularly when it comes to our internal rewards system. Researchers found that those who practiced positive affirmations had significantly more brain activity around reward and self-worth than those who didn’t.

Other research suggests that self-affirmation can positively influence changes to different health behaviors, including mental health and wellness.

Haigh suggests thinking of positive affirmations as your internal “hype-person,” or that someone who helps you feel strong, brave, excited, or confident.

“You’re already doing affirmations every time you say, ‘you got this’ or ‘I can do it.’ This practice is more about harnessing that so that you’re using [affirmations] to their fullest potential.”

Research shows that there are many benefits associated with using affirmations, including:

  • boost confidence and self-esteem
  • control negative feelings
  • reduce stress
  • improve overall well-being
  • promote openness to new behaviors
  • increase productivity
  • provide motivation
  • overcome challenges
  • change unwanted habits

Studies also suggest that practicing positive affirmations may also help improve the ability to problem solve when experiencing stress, as well as possibly increase physical activity levels in young adults.

One 2015 study even suggests that when combined with optimism, self-affirmation may provide health benefits to those who have survived cancer and other illnesses.

Positive affirmations can be a way to improve self-esteem and overcome negative thoughts.

Through the regular use of these empowering statements, you can create positive changes in your mental health and overall well-being.

Research shows that establishing a self-affirming practice has a variety of benefits, from boosting your self-confidence and improving productivity to reducing stress and overcoming unwanted habits.

Positive affirmations may even be more effective when paired with other self-help strategies, like positive thinking and visualization techniques.