Goals, Mindset

Affirmations for depression: how to get it right and what to expect?

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Affirmations are not about repeating endlessly “I’m happy, I’m happy” like a dumbass, and expecting to be suddenly happy and not depressed anymore.

But they do work, especially if you are dealing with a lot of negative thinking and self-loathing.

They work, that is if you identify the right affirmations for your specific problems, if you do them right with the right attitude, if you take the actions that reflect your affirmations, and if you do them consistently for as long as it takes, i.e., weeks or probably months. Also, no matter what new project you undertake, it’s always important to evaluate and assess progress regularly and adapt your strategy as needed.

There is a right way to do affirmations, just like there is a right way to make bread, or restore an 18th-century painting.

So, affirmations: when to say them, what to say, how to say them, and what to expect?

Should you start doing affirmations?

You should start doing affirmations if:

  • You struggle with negative self-talk and are trying to change that;
  • Have negative and limiting beliefs and feel like they are holding you back;
  • Have poor self-esteem;
  • You understand that you are the direct reflection of your thoughts and are looking for ways to elevate and transform your thoughts and your life.

When should you do your affirmations?

Evenings and mornings are the best time to practice your affirmations, although that shouldn’t stop you from doing them throughout the day. Also, certain affirmations just make more sense when done at specific times.

The way your day starts impacts the rest of your day.

After months of testing and trying, I now know that if I want to have a “good” day, I must 1) express gratitude/do morning affirmations, then 2) exercise OR prepare a healthy breakfast OR work on my personal projects immediately after waking up.

I’ve found that these activities are the best way to cut short the negative or compulsive thoughts I inevitably get just minutes after opening my eyes.

If I do anything else in the morning (e.g., delay getting out of bed, check my phone or talk on the phone, etc.), I get more anxious, more easily depressed, or affected by external events, I’m less productive, unfocused, more prone to cravings, etc.

It’s not an exact science, but that’s how it goes most of the time.

A great day starts the evening before

An even better day starts the evening before. If you take time to prep your mindset in the evenings before bed, it improves your chances of having a better night’s sleep, which will in turn impact your mornings.

The right affirmation at the right time

Sometimes it makes more sense to repeat your affirmations as you are doing a specific task or facing a specific situation or challenge.

If a certain situation triggers your low self-esteem, it could be the right time to tell yourself: “I am worthy of love simply because I exist”.

For example, before I started jogging, I was convinced that I was not a runner. Not only because of my rheumatoid arthritis, but I had tried a few times, waay back then in high school, and had found no enjoyment in it. So I thought it was just not for me and left it at that.

Fast forward 15 years later, I now do a lot of things I never thought I was capable of doing or thought I hated.

One of the ways I managed to achieve such an accomplishment was by continuously telling myself: “I can do this, it’s easy”, like a mantra. This is the type of affirmations you can tell yourself as you are doing a challenging task.

How should you do your affirmations?

Adopt a posture that reflects what you are saying

For example, if you are saying Muhammad Ali’s “I am the greatest” as you are running up a hill or trying to finish a scary assignment, don’t remain hunched over! Stand tall, shoulders back, chin up, confident gaze…

If you say: “I am worthy of love simply because I exist”, then say it while stroking your arm or your hand with love and tenderness, even if you don’t truly believe it yet.

The difference in results over time is massive.

How to do affirmations
Image from Canva

Repeat your affirmations out loud

At first, I was doing the affirmations in my head, but nothing was happening.

But once I started saying them out loud, using my arms, hand gestures, touching my heart, even writing them down… slowly, all the things I was saying became real.

Repetition, repetition, repetition

If you are reading about affirmations right now, then you probably haven’t started doing them yet, or only did recently.

When you are trying to start a new habit or create change, consistency is always a key element.

Nothing will happen if you do something for only 3 days and then stop. You might see a little progress but it will quickly fade away.

I personally spent around 45 days consistently repeating certain specific phrases (mostly about forgiving myself and self-love) before starting to see a real shift in my mindset.

But even after those 2 months, I still have to do them regularly because… well, bad habits have a way of creeping back up on you.

Positive affirmations versus negative affirmations

Refrain from expressing your affirmations in terms of what you don’t want. Don’t say “I am not insecure”. It will only put your focus on the ‘insecure’ part of that sentence and will be utterly ineffective or make things worse.

Instead say: “I am a confident and secure woman and I bring joy to the people around me”.

What to say? The right affirmations for you

Affirmations and mindset
Image from Canva

Affirmations are about changing your mindset and the recurring, very limiting thoughts and beliefs you consistently have but probably don’t even notice, and that are hurting you.

The thing is, the affirmations that work for me, are not necessarily the ones that work for you. Because we do not necessarily struggle with the same issues.

How do you figure out what to say?

Related article: 18 Powerful affirmations for different areas of life.

Pay attention to your inner monologue

The first step before starting affirmations is to get a clear picture of the limiting beliefs you carry and pay attention to your inner monologue. What does the voice in your head sound like? Does it tell you that you are worthless? That no one will ever love you? That you will die alone? Does that voice tell you that you are dumb? That you are just like your father? Or your mother?

What do you want to change about your life?

Is there something you particularly dislike about yourself and would like to change? Do you have difficulty making friends? Are you incapable of speaking in front of people? Are you overweight? Underweight?

What problems do you struggle with?

Sometimes, it takes a while to understand what our problems are. You could try asking close friends or family members to help you regarding this.

In my case, it took about a decade of financial struggles before I finally understood that I had a pretty bad relationship with money, in the sense that I hated money. I thought money was “bad” and “dirty”. When you believe that about something, you can only have a bad relationship with it.

Do you struggle financially? In your relationships? When you look at your past or think about your struggles, do you see a pattern?

Affirmations when you are depressed: what to expect?

Pain. A lot of pain.

Affirmations, when done right, can be painful. There’s just something about hearing yourself say words you’ve been (most likely) craving to hear so badly from others.  

Let’s say you’ve been dealing with massive guilt and self-loathing for years, but suddenly you begin every morning by sitting on your bed, stroking your arm and saying “[your name] I forgive you for …”, let me tell you, you might start bawling your eyes out. Every. Morning.

If you are severely depressed, it’s important to understand that affirmations are not a quick fix, and doing them might cause you a lot of pain for the first few weeks.

But I think that pain is an indication that you are on the right track. You’ve identified the sore point but now, you must keep pushing through to heal effectively and come out on the other side. It will stop hurting and there will no longer be tears.

You might start crying everytime you start saying your affirmations

Imae from Canva

You might cry. And that may scare or discourage you, especially if you do your affirmations in the morning. You might not like starting every day in tears and I get it.

But I find that tears and pain are a guide. If it hurts then it means you have put your finger on something important.

Also, have no fear. In 100% of cases, I found that my mood was significantly better after my morning affirmations and throughout the whole day, even if I had to go through some tears first.

However, and despite knowing that it will be better after, you will still try to avoid the tears and the pain, and skip the affirmations, every single time. Don’t.

You might feel silly as you recite your affirmations

You might feel self-conscious or embarrassed to say things out loud in your house, especially if you have roommates, a partner, or nosy children.

Here’s the thing, when you are trying to change your behavior, you will experience a lot of discomfort, all the time. That’s in part because your brain tries to find ways to make you give up those new behaviors so that you go back to what it knows; what is safe.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, give it time before giving it all up. Try staying committed for a couple of months, and then assess the progress. If you don’t see any improvement, and still feel embarrassed, then you can stop.

Final thoughts

When you are trying to change yourself, having the right mindset can make or break your efforts. And affirmations are among key actions you can take to achieve the proper mindset.

But affirmations are only that: steps in a series of many other steps you need to take to achieve your goal of self-transformation.

After the affirmations and mindset shifts, you must still take daily positive actions towards your goals.

Are you acting on your goals?

Suggested read: Get rid of depression by solving your problems.

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About Steph

I am a personal growth/self-management enthusiast. I was able to completely transform my life using everything I share here. I hope this blog helps you transform yours as well.
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