If you are a longtime fan of Saturday Night Live, you might remember a character named Stuart Smalley. Stuart and his program, “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley,” were introduced on SNL in February 1991. The character sought to help himself and others with positive statements intended to build confidence and self-esteem. Often, for Stuart, these efforts went off the rails in various ways.
On their face, these sketches (and the movie, book, and audiobook they inspired) poke fun at the notion that we can talk ourselves toward better mental health.
But here’s a thought experiment to consider: Think back on the kinds of things your inner voice has been saying to you over, say, the last two weeks. How much of that inner dialogue has been critical? If you are like many, many people, there is a good chance that you criticize yourself quite frequently.
In an article entitled “The Toxic Effects of Negative Self-Talk,” Dr. Elizabeth Scott writes:
Basically, negative self-talk is any inner dialogue you have with yourself that may be limiting your ability to believe in yourself and your own abilities, and to reach your potential. It is any thought that diminishes your ability to make positive changes in your life or your confidence in yourself to do so. So negative self-talk can not only be stressful, but it can really stunt your success.
Given that negative self-talk can have a negative impact on our lives, it is reasonable to consider the possibility that positive self-talk might have a positive impact. But is there any evidence to back that up?
Turns out, there is.
The Research Shows a Positive Result from Positivity
There are a number of studies that support the idea that affirmations—that is, positive statements we make to ourselves—are good for our overall mental health. In an article titled “How to Use Positive Affirmations for a Fulfilling Life,” Juliana McBride Haigh, an associate marriage and family therapist suggests:
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.
Okay, But What Should You Say?
Stuart Smalley certainly highlighted a feature of affirmations that some folks have trouble dealing with: sometimes affirmations sound a little goofy. Take, for example, a couple of examples from the positive affirmations article we cited above:
- I am loved and supported by the Universe.
- I am Love and I am Light. All is well.
Those sorts of affirmations are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Fuzzy concepts like being supported by the universe or somehow embodying light might strike some as too mystical or too far removed from day-to-day experience to be useful.
But the good news is that affirmations do not have to grapple with the preferences of the universe. Many affirmations are just good reminders to yourself and provide encouragement to persevere in difficult moments. This list of 105 affirmations, for example, has some great options, including:
- I give myself permission to feel this way without judgment.
- I am more than my thoughts.
- I treat myself with kindness.
- I can overcome my fears.
- I am worthy of respect from myself and others.
Of course, your affirmations do not have to come from a list. You can create your own—just a few statements that you can remind yourself of on a regular basis. You can also choose how you attend to your affirmations. Maybe speaking them out loud works well for you. Perhaps taking a deep breath and reminding yourself of them silently is better for you. Maybe posting a note in a spot where you will see it a few times a day (your mirror, your car’s steering wheel, your computer monitor) is the best option to ensure you will remember to affirm yourself. Perhaps affirmations are a good fit with your mindfulness practice.
We Affirm That We Can Help You Address Mental Health Disorders
Are you struggling with your mental well-being? Do you frequently feel anxious or a sense of despair or an ongoing feeling of fear? Are you having trouble sleeping, sleeping too much or finding it difficult to keep up with your work or family responsibilities or hobbies? Have you had a traumatic experience that you just can’t seem to leave in the past?
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health in Colorado, we can help with many different mental health disorders. We are committed to a personalized approach grounded in empathy, experience, and expertise. We want to affirm that we can help you improve your mental health and maintain those improvements over time. We are ready to get started whenever you are.