How to Use Positive Affirmations for Stress Relief

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Positive affirmations are a great tool for reprogramming your unconscious mind from negative thinking to positive. The idea is to take positive statements of what you would like to see manifested and repeat them enough so that they’re part of your way of thinking and seeing the world.

Positive affirmations work the same way that negative self-talk does but in a way that benefits you.

Tips for Writing Personalized Positive Affirmations

You can use the following guidelines to create your own collection of positive self-talk statements to help reduce stress, change your thinking, and stay motivated.

  • Look at Your Intentions. Think about what you are trying to create in your life. This means, look at the end product and the behaviors, attitudes, and traits you would like to see yourself develop to get there. Would you like to feel more peace? Would you like to practice healthy lifestyle habits? Would you like to be a more supportive friend? You might want to write in a journal and brainstorm to figure out what’s important to you and get to the heart of what you want to create in your life. 
  • Create Statements. Once you get an idea of what you’re aiming for, try to put that idea into a few simple statements that reflect the reality of what you want to create. Phrase the statements as if they are already true, not that you would like them to be true. For example, the affirmation, “I am feeling more peaceful each day,” would be better than, “I want to feel more peaceful.” This is because you are programming your subconscious mind to believe the statements, and that helps manifest them into reality. You’re not trying to want something, you’re trying to make it so.
  • Be Sure They’re Positive. When making positive affirmations, be sure they’re positive. This means saying what you want to see and experience, not what you don’t want to see and experience. For example, instead of saying, “I don’t want to feel stress,” or even, “I’ve stopped feeling stress,” use, “I’m feeling peace.” Sometimes your mind doesn’t register the negative, and it just hears the concept, “stress,” which is what you’re trying to avoid.
  • Make Them Realistic. Your subconscious mind can benefit from positive affirmations that stretch and expand your perspective, but if you push things too far, your "inner judge" steps in and negates the affirmations. Be sure that you're making your affirmations realistic, but hopeful as well, and positive affirmations will work for you. For example, the affirmation of, "Every day, in every way, I'm getting better and stronger, etc." might feel like too much of a stretch, and your subconscious mind might beg to differ. However, "I am learning from my mistakes," or "I am grateful for all that I have in my life," might feel more "real" to your subconscious mind. Experiment, and see what feels right to you.
  • Get Inspiration From Other People. If you’d like some ideas for affirmations designed to reduce stress in your life by increasing peaceful thoughts, feelings of safety, and fostering a stronger sense of self-efficacy, check out affirmations written by others. Some simple ones to remember include, "I'm going to enjoy today," and "I can handle whatever comes my way."

Tips for Introducing Positive Affirmations in Your Life

Once you’ve put together your collection of statements, here are some fun ways to introduce positive affirmations into your life.

  • Repetition. Probably the most popular way to harness the power of affirmations is to simply repeat them to yourself on a regular basis. Repeating them mentally several times in the morning or evening can be effective; repeating them aloud is even more effective because you hear them more clearly that way.
  • Do-It-Yourself Recording. You can make a recording of yourself repeating positive affirmations and play it as you drive, get reading in the morning, or do other activities. Talk in a calm voice, maybe play your favorite soothing music in the background, and you have a recording tailor-made especially for your needs.
  • Use Post-Its. A fun way to use affirmations is to put them on post-its that you place around your house (on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, and other places you’ll likely see them) to give yourself positive messages throughout the day. This technique can be effective on its own or can be used with other affirmation techniques as a reinforcement.
  • Self-Hypnosis. To really increase the effectiveness of affirmations, you can use them with self-hypnosis. This is a way to really cement them into your subconscious thinking much more quickly than repeating them in your normal conscious state. 

While not all positive affirmations are helpful (if you are too unrealistic about them, our mind may fight against them) most of them can get you into a better frame of mind and help you to build resilience and enjoyment in your life. That's a lot of benefit for a relatively low time investment. And best of all, they're fun.

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  • Lighthall, N., Gorlick, M., Schoeke, A. Stress Modulates Reinforcement Learning in Younger and Older Adults. Psychology and Aging, 35-46, 2013.