Benefits and 10 Exercises to Try

Affirmation activities can train the brain to be more resilient under stress. With practice, self-affirmations can help you in both your personal and professional life.

If more often than not your mind wanders into negative or useless territory, you are not alone. Many people have an inner critic whose voice is loud and clear. Affirmation activities can use the power of positive thinking in your favor.

Your emotional state affects how you think, and what you think can affect your emotions as well. Everything from a disagreement with a loved one to the current state of politics can put you in a negative mental space.

And before you know it, that energy can seep into your thoughts.

Affirmation activities can boost your confidence when you feel powerless, reduce fear of judgment, and broaden your perspective, both in your personal and professional life.

Your brain adapts and changes based on your thoughts and experiences, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. Self-affirmation is a form of positive self-talk that produces positive changes in your thinking patterns.

The word confirm means “a statement of fact”. Self-affirmations are factual statements about yourself that help you maintain your “perceived worth and integrity,” according to a 2013 literature review.

The self-affirmation theory is based on the assumption that our sense of self is flexible. When you experience a threat to your sense of self, you can use self-affirmations to maintain your self-integrity. Self-affirmations are a reminder of your goals, worth, and values.

For many people, self-affirmations also act as a buffer to reduce stress when their sense of self is compromised.

A 2015 analysis found that self-affirmations increased activity in the brain’s reward center. Positive affirmations can also trigger the release of feel-good hormones, much like exercise. The same study found evidence that the positive effects of affirmations can motivate you to act when you otherwise wouldn’t.

1. Make a list of positive affirmations

If you’re not sure where to start, try making a list of positive affirmations you might want to use. Break things down into categories such as social, emotional, intellectual, and physical. For example, your physical list of affirmations might look like this:

  • I am healthy and strong.
  • I practice every day.
  • I feed my body with healthy food choices.
  • I love how strong my body is.
  • I choose healthy, nutritious food.

2. Create Confirmation Posters

Consider creating a few affirmation posters and placing them in key areas of your home or office to remind you of important self-affirming phrases.

For example, a poster in your pantry that says, “I choose foods that nourish me and make me feel good,” can remind you of the goals you’ve set for yourself. A poster at work might say something like, “I’m valuable to my team.”

3. Find or create your favorite affirmations

Remember that list of positive affirmations? Some affirmations may just not work for you.

It can be helpful to take some time to work on creating affirmations that appeal to you. Try doing a Google search or brainstorming confirmations based on your goals. It’s okay to try an affirmation and realize it’s not quite right for you. Scratch it off the list and try another explanation.

4. Say your affirmations out loud

Try to start your day by saying your affirmations out loud. By organizing your thoughts and speaking them out loud, you train your brain to form new thinking patterns.

Practicing affirmations may feel silly at first, but sticking to them can make them feel more natural.

5. The “I am . † † excercise

Not sure where to start? This simple exercise can help you identify the things that matter most to you.

Complete the sentence “I am . . .” with the first thoughts that come to mind Try another variation if “I am” phrases don’t work for you “Today I will . † † may work better for discovering your goals and motivations.

6. Affirmations with Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation trains you to keep your thoughts in the present moment and can help reduce stress and improve well-being. Try adding affirmation to your meditation sessions.

With each exhale, say one of your affirmations to yourself. Continue to breathe deeply as you say the affirmation over and over.

7. Sticky Notes Reminders

Some people change their affirmations every day, week or month. Sticky notes are an easy way to keep your affirmations visible. Consider placing one on your bathroom mirror, next to your workstation, or by the garage door so you can look at it all day long.

8. Write down your affirmations

A journal is an excellent place to write down and reflect on your affirmations. You may want to write down how the affirmations make you feel or affect you. This coping strategy encourages positive thinking and can help you better understand your feelings.

9. Dedicate a Confirmation Day

Try treating yourself to a special affirmation day. You’d:

  • Fill your home with sticky notes covered in affirmations.
  • Create confirmation posters.
  • Say your affirmations out loud all day, not just in the morning or before bed.

10. Text Confirmations

Adults aren’t the only ones who benefit from affirmations. Consider talking to your tween or teens about positive affirmations in their favorite songs. Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” or Katie Perry’s “Roar” are a few examples. Try to pay attention to possible positive affirmations when you stream music or listen to the radio together.

Stress happens to just about everyone. Practicing self-affirmations can act as an “exercise” for your brain when you start thinking negative or useless thoughts.

These 10 simple tips can help you get started by using self-affirmations to regain the balance of these patterns under stress.

If you still find yourself feeling overwhelmed or struggling with useless thoughts, consider seeing a therapist. Psych Central’s guide to seeking mental health support is a great place to start.