If you're like me and tend to prioritize meditation, journaling, and therapy for your mental health, let's talk about why you may want to add affirmations to that list, too. Not only does science say that affirmations can significantly reduce feelings of anxiety and worry after just a month of use, but they're also just a really great way to keep you grounded.
For those who don't know, affirmations are brief phrases that you say repeatedly in an effort to "plant seeds of happy and positive notions, conceptions, and attitudes into one's psyche," according to the Psychology Dictionary. Therapist Rebecca Phillips, MS, LPC, of Mend Modern Therapy, describes affirmations as a "powerful tool used to challenge negative thought patterns" — the kind of thought patterns that contribute to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. She says that since anxiety is the result of the brain's natural inclination to focus on negative aspects of ourselves and our lives, positive affirmations can counteract these feelings to help us gain a more realistic perspective. In other words, "positive affirmations are the antidote to negative self-talk," Phillips explains.
And because people with anxiety usually "try to avoid feeling anxious," positive affirmations can "help the person acknowledge and feel their feelings rather than avoid them," according to Kristin Miyoko Papa, LCSW. They also direct your attention to the present moment instead of the future or past, psychologist Lori L. Cangilla, PhD, says. "This kind of mindfulness reduces anxiety, depression, and other kinds of emotional distress," she explains.
All that to say, if you are wanting to manage your anxiety more efficiently or just want to add another tool to your anxiety-fighting arsenal, you'll want to keep reading for some helpful affirmations to try.
Positive Affirmations For Anxiety
If you want to start saying affirmations for your anxiety, know that the most successful affirmations are the ones that resonate the most with you, Roslyn Guzman, LCSW, says. This means you should select some positive affirmations that seem relevant and specific to your particular life. After all, you have to "believe in [your] core the truth of these words" in order for them to be most effective, Jennifer Grant Schliessman, LCSW, says.
To get the most out of your affirmations, experts recommend repeating them out loud three times a day (morning, midday, and evening) for five minutes at a time. If this frequency isn't feasible, try starting with once or twice a day for three minutes at a time. You can also write the affirmation down in a journal instead of saying it out loud, if that feels more comfortable than speaking.
Here are some expert-recommended affirmations you can start with, but feel free to customize as you see fit.
- Thank you, anxiety, for trying to protect me, but today, I think I can handle the challenge.
- I can live comfortably and well, even while I feel anxious.
- I am learning to accept life exactly as it is at this moment.
- I have self-compassion for my anxiety, but I choose not to let my anxiety limit my actions.
- Feel the fear [or anxiety, self-doubt, etc.] and do it anyways.
- I will focus my energy on what I am able to control.
- This is my body's response. I am not in danger.
- These thoughts too shall pass.
- I am safe.
- I am strong and capable of handling whatever comes my way.
- I trust myself to navigate difficult or stressful situations because I have already overcome so much.
- It's OK to feel the way I'm feeling right now.
- I recognize that I am feeling anxious, and I am working to improve it.
- Even if I notice I am feeling anxious, I can still [fill in the blank for whatever task you're trying to do].
- I recognize I am feeling anxious, but today I am choosing to embrace my values of [courage, patience, perseverance, etc.] so I can do what I need to do.
Now, if you're someone who has a hard time believing positive things about yourself, Yara Heary, an AHPRA-certified psychotherapist in Australia, recommends trying affirmations that are framed as a "what if" question. Framing these affirmations as questions makes it harder for your critical self-talk to shut the affirmation down, Heary says. Instead of a concrete statement of fact, "it's a gentle suggestion of an alternative positive scenario," she explains. "It's sowing the seed of a positive mindset or view of their experience."
Here are some examples of the "what if" format, but note that you can also try these affirmations as statements by dropping the "what if."
- What if I am capable of handling whatever the future holds?
- What if I am safe and no harm will come to me?
- What if I feel less afraid and more in control when I slow down my breathing?
Affirmations, in essence, are another tool to help you reframe your thoughts around anxiety. It may sound simplistic — can just repeating a phrase over and over again really help you feel less anxious? — but that's part of the beauty of it. "When we challenge a negative thought and replace it with a positive affirmation," Phillips says, "we essentially change this negative thought, feeling, and behavior loop to something positive." With consistent practice, that's what affirmations can help you do.