Take a moment to think about the people who have really made a difference for you in key moments by saying just the right thing at the right time. Think about the folks who have been steadily encouraging as a matter of course.
- Maybe you are thinking of a parent who always supported you—reminding you that you are loved and taking an interest in whatever interested you.
- Maybe you are thinking of a teacher who noticed you—offering support when you struggled and praise when you made progress.
- Maybe you are thinking of a coach—cheering you on and helping you improve whether or not you were the star of the team.
- Maybe you are thinking of a boss—trusting you with important work and helping you level up with careful mentoring.
- Maybe you are thinking of a spouse or partner—making sure you know they will always support you and your goals.
- Maybe you are thinking of a friend—answering your call or text at all hours simply to listen and provide unconditional support.
- You might be thinking of all sorts of people who have stepped up to provide encouragement. But there is one person you probably have not been thinking of.
That person is you.
The fact of the matter is, most people could probably benefit from being more encouraging to themselves. For people in recovery from a substance use disorder, learning to make self-talk more positive is an essential skill for protecting your sobriety.
With that in mind, we encourage you to consider the power of affirmations.
What is an Affirmation?
Affirmations are simply short, positive statements that you can remind yourself of when you need a boost of confidence, joy, or self-esteem. Here are a few examples from a longer list of possibilities:
- I feel proud of myself when I [fill in the blank].
- I give myself space to grow and learn.
- I allow myself to be who I am without judgment.
Pretty simple, right? Even so, some folks—perhaps you yourself—have a difficult time getting started with affirmations.
Overcoming Skepticism About Affirmations
When trying something new, it is only natural to have a few doubts. As we have noted, some people find this sort of self-talk hard to engage with at first. It can feel forced or hokey or disingenuous. And some people associate affirmations with a sort of wish fulfillment—a process wherein “speaking something into the world” supposedly triggers the arrival of that something. Many people find that idea particularly hard to get behind.
But if you think of affirmations as simple reminders, it can be easier to start employing them in your daily life.
Here’s a simple example. Let’s say you are faced with a large project at work. Maybe you have been procrastinating because the task seems so daunting. As you put the project off, however, you find your stress level increasing. After all, by delaying the start of the work, you have given yourself less time to tackle the complexities of the activity. Soon, you find the stress snowballing—and you might even find yourself experiencing what is known as task paralysis.
Now, imagine yourself sitting quietly for a moment and taking a deep breath. Here are two more affirmations from the list we mentioned before that might be just the thing in this situation:
- I am confident in my ability to [fill in the blank]. (In this case, the blank might become work steadily on this task or complete this project despite the challenges.)
- My drive and ambition allow me to achieve my goals.
Sure, that might seem silly the first few times you try it. But it might also be the moment when you break through the difficulties you have had getting started.
Personalization is the Key
Most examples of affirmations do not necessarily seem natural. They just are not structured in the ways in which we actually tend to talk with one another—or to ourselves.
So don’t be afraid to personalize your approach to affirmations so that they feel right to you. You can always use your authentic voice when talking to yourself. For example, I am confident in my ability to work steadily on this task might become, Hey, you can work on this for an hour, right?
Your version of any given affirmation might be less formal, but that doesn’t mean it will be less effective.
Connecting Affirmations to Recovery
We have been using a big work project as an example of a situation in which affirmations might be helpful—but affirmations can be just as useful (even more useful) for a person in recovery. Consider options like:
- I have overcome cravings in the past, and I can do it again.
- I spend time with people who support my sobriety.
- I make healthy choices that support my overall well-being.
Reminding yourself of your successes and good choices is a great way to keep your recovery on track.
Some Additional Thoughts About Self-Talk
Affirmations are just one way to try to work toward improving your inner narrative. We provide some additional ideas in a blog entry titled “Reducing Negative Self-Talk Is a Positive Change.”
We Would Like to Affirm that We can Help
At Wooded Glen Recovery Center in Indiana, we are committed to your sobriety. When you are ready, we can help.