All of us have this tendency to focus on the negative. Living in this busy world, we often find that our thoughts are on worries, the things we need to do, where we made mistakes, and on and on. It’s one of the reasons why positive affirmations are considered a part of many depression treatments. By telling ourselves every day things like “I deserve to be happy,” we can restructure our minds to believe it.
Affirmations can seem silly to those that have not done them before, but the research into them – although limited – is largely positive. It’s a key component of cognitive restructuring. We, as therapists, often have people with anxiety and depression repeat these affirmations to themselves every day to essentially rewire their minds so that they learn to see the world in a more positive and hopeful way.
Starting Affirmations Early – Before They Are Needed
What some researchers are doing is looking to see if components of psychological treatments, like affirmations, can help not only treat different mental health conditions, but actually prevent them. To study this, researchers looked at one of the most at-risk populations for depression: college age women.
They had half of the group learn behavioral interventions that included positive affirmations, while another group acted as the control. They then followed up with his group at various intervals over the next 18 months. The group of college-aged women that utilized treatment tools like affirmations had lower depression scores and higher self-esteem across the board when compared to women in the control group, indicating that treatments like positive affirmations were powerful enough to potentially prevent depression and depression-like symptoms.
Are Affirmations Preventative?
Research into affirmations is limited. Even in the above study, affirmations were given with a variety of other behavioral interventions, so it’s unclear if affirmations alone would have had much benefit. Similarly, usually when performing a research study, it is better for the control group to have some type of inert treatment to compare it to. Since the control group had no treatment at all, it’s difficult to say if the existence of any treatment would have provided similar results, no matter what it would be.
But there is plenty of research to suggest that affirmations can actually be quite powerful, especially with our tendency to think negatively. Those that are looking to give themselves a positive mental health boost in their lives should consider seeing if daily affirmations can provide them with some help in boosting their confidence, happiness, and self-esteem.