Positive Affirmations: Examples, Benefits, Effectiveness

Home > Positive Affirmations: Examples, Benefits, Effectiveness


Positive Affirmations: Examples, Benefits, Effectiveness

THC Editorial Team July 4, 2023
Boy of the Crossfield Family (Possibly Richard Crossfield), 1766–68, John Durand, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (article on positive affirmations)
Boy of the Crossfield Family (Possibly Richard Crossfield), 1766–68, John Durand, The Metropolitan Museum of Art


Humans have an internal voice. The self-talk one has internally can impact one’s inner and outer worlds. Excessive negative self-statements can have a detrimental effect on a person. Positive self-affirmations may mitigate some of the consequences of negative thinking and potentially have other benefits for people as well.

What Are Positive Affirmations?

Positive affirmations are self-affirming statements or phrases people can say or repeat to themselves to improve their thoughts, feelings, and mood. Positive affirmations are usually uplifting and motivating statements. People can use self-affirmations at any time and say them out loud or repeat them silently.

Many people use positive affirmations when they recognize that they are having negative thoughts or making negative statements about themselves to reframe their thinking — by replacing negative thoughts and self-talk with positive thoughts and words. For example, if someone thinks, “I am dumb,” they can interrupt and replace that thought with a positive self-affirmation, such as “I am not dumb. I am smart. I am also hard-working and kind.”

When people regularly repeat positive self-affirmations to themselves, the practice is thought to modify negative thinking patterns. These statements promote a positive mindset by shifting their thought patterns, increasing self-confidence, and reducing stress.

Background on Positive Affirmations

Modern positive self-affirmation usage draws from various philosophies and disciplines.

Early Philosophies and Religions

From early human history, various philosophies and religions have emphasized the importance of good thoughts.

New Thought Movement

One of the principles of the New Thought movement, which began in the late 19th century, is an emphasis on mental states manifesting in daily living.

Autosuggestion and Self-hypnosis (Coué Method)

The Coué method, featuring autosuggestion and scientific hypnosis, proposed by Emile Coue in the early 20th century, focused on conscious and unconscious activities and suggestions to strengthen one’s ego. He is known for the affirmation, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”1

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on identifying and challenging automatic dysfunctional thinking patterns.

Positive Psychotherapy

Positive psychotherapy focuses on an individual’s strengths and positive aspects of their experience to help them move forward and reach their innate potential.

Self-affirmation Theory

In the 1980s, Dr. Claude Steele developed self-affirmation theory, based on the premise that individuals are motivated to maintain a positive view of themselves and one with integrity. Dr. Steele initially researched self-affirmation to reduce cognitive dissonance and improve a person’s self-concept.2 Through his research, Dr. Steele believed positive affirmations could improve health outcomes, mitigate biased thinking, and improve students’ academic performance.

The basic principles of self-affirmation theory include:3

  1. Motivation to protect the sense of goodness and integrity of the self
  2. Protecting self-integrity can lead to defensive reactions
  3. The self-system is flexible – there are multiple ways to affirm the self
  4. People can focus on areas of life that reaffirm their self and self-worth

Thus, self-affirmation theory posits that one way to believe in oneself’s goodness is to use positive self-affirmations, even if they are unrelated to a perceived immediate threat.3

Examples of Positive Affirmations

The following are some examples of positive self-affirmations that people can use:

  • I am enough.
  • accept myself unconditionally.
  • I am learning.
  • I am strong.
  • I am growing at my own pace.
  • I am a good person.
  • I choose to feel happy.
  • I am whole and complete.
  • I live in peace and harmony.
  • This, too, will pass.
  • The ability to change my mind is a strength.
  • My boundaries are valid.
  • I am worthy.
  • I am supported and loved.
  • I am loving and loveable.

How To Do Positive Affirmations

The following is one way in which people can incorporate positive self-affirmations into their daily lives:

  1. Choose a short, affirmative statement that resonates with the person.
  2. Aim to choose positive affirmations that are true even if, at times, the claim doesn’t feel true due to one’s internal state.
  3. Decide when to use affirmations and whether to say them out loud or internally.
  4. Incorporate the affirmations into the daily routine and repeat them daily.
  5. Correct negative thoughts with positive affirmations. For example, if people catch themselves thinking, “I never learn,” after making a small mistake, they can immediately state something like, “I can learn from my mistake.”

The Potential Benefits and Effectiveness of Using Positive Affirmations

Self-affirmation interventions for various mental health concerns have been studied extensively and have shown promise for reducing anxietydepression, and stress. Researchers have also found that positive affirmations can help to improve academic performance and health outcomes.

Regular repetition of positive affirmations might provide the following benefits:

Strengthened Sense of Self

Using self-affirmations can help people improve their self-confidence, self-efficacy, self-evaluation after failures, and much more.4,5,6

Improved Self-regulation and Self-control

Research has shown that practicing self-affirmations can enhance self-control in individuals who feel that their inner resources have been depleted. It can also improve mental construal, which refers to the ability to think in abstract terms.4,6

Improved Problem-solving Capability

Practicing self-affirmations can enhance problem-solving abilities when under pressure, especially for individuals experiencing chronic stress. Researchers conducted a randomized, controlled study to evaluate the effects of positive affirmations on the ability of people to solve problems in stressful situations. Participants were assigned to one of two groups, including a group that repeated a claim they believed represented a value in themselves and a group that repeated affirmations unrelated to any values they held. Those who repeated positive affirmations associated with their values showed better problem-solving abilities under stress than those who repeated unrelated affirmations.5

Improved Self-efficacy

A study involving first-year students at a community college who experienced math anxiety demonstrated reductions in anxiety among the students and improved math performance. The researchers incorporated a growth-based and mindfulness strategy in a developmental statistics course to help students combat negative self-thinking about math. They found that the students reduced math anxiety, increased self-efficacy, and improved math performance.7

Increased Well-being

Practicing self-affirmations can improve eudaimonic (a sense of purpose and meaning) and hedonic (pleasure and enjoyment) well-being.8

Increased Physical Activity and Planned Behaviors

Self-affirmations can help people increase their physical activity levels. A group of 80 British university students participated in a study where they were randomly assigned to either a self-affirmation intervention group or a control group. The researchers discovered that those in the self-affirmation group reported increased physical activity and had stronger intentions and more positive attitudes toward physical activity than the control group.9

Reduced Defensiveness

Self-affirmations can lead to reduced defensive responses in individuals.10

Reduced Feelings of Insecurity

Practicing self-affirmations can help individuals who struggle with insecurity feel more secure in their relationships, which may make them more welcoming and friendly in social situations.11

Reduced Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Positive affirmations can benefit those with depression, anxiety, or both. In a randomized controlled study conducted with 175 adults with psoriasis, researchers randomly assigned participants into a self-affirming intervention group, a non-affirming intervention group, and a control group. The researchers assessed the participants’ mental health before they were randomly assigned, two weeks following the intervention and at a one-month follow-up. They found that the group that underwent the positive affirmations intervention showed significantly greater reductions in depressive symptoms and anxiety, increased well-being at two weeks, and continued improvements over time. The researchers found that incorporating self-affirmation interventions among people with chronic conditions could be a way to enhance psychological well-being and reduce distress.12

A recent study considered whether self-affirmation strategies might help college students diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder (SAD). Researchers randomly assigned 75 college students diagnosed with SAD into a self-affirmation group and a non-affirmed control group. After completing the self-affirmation or controlled writing task, the students were assessed with the Trier Social Stress Test for Groups (TSST-G) and subsequently received psychoeducational follow-up on SAD. While the researchers found no difference when the students took the TSST-G, they found that those who completed the positive affirmation task reported significant reductions in anxiety and stress in various social situations at a one-month follow-up. They also reported significant increases in their engagement in social activities.13

Replenished Ego Strength

Positive self-affirmations can improve self-evaluations, boost self-confidence, increase self-control, and replenish ego strength. 4,5,6

Reduced Distorted Thinking Patterns (ruminations)

Practicing positive self-affirmations before or after a perceived failure can help to reduce ruminative negative thinking patterns.6

Improved Affect (the experience of feelings and moods)

Engaging in positive self-affirmations can also lead to improved affect in individuals, resulting in a better mood and more pleasant feelings.6

Increased Openness to Change

Positive self-affirmations may promote one’s psychological flexibility and openness to change.

Reduced Stress

Self-affirmations may have a buffering impact on the harmful effects of stress.5

Increased Positive Thinking

Practicing positive self-affirmations may lead to increased positive thinking.

Improved Relationships

Practicing self-affirmations can increase pro-social behavior, potentially leading to improved relationships.13

Separately, several studies have been conducted about the effects of positive affirmations on self-esteem. However, a recent study in which the researchers tried to replicate the findings of an earlier study showing improved self-esteem could not replicate the earlier results over two studies involving 225 participants in the first study and 237 in the second. The researchers found no improvements in self-esteem and could not replicate earlier research findings.14

Factors Influencing the Effectiveness of Self-Affirmations

Various factors may influence the effectiveness of positive self-affirmation statements. Some of these include the following:

The Believability of Affirmations

Affirmations that people find unrealistic may work less well or even backfire. This was the case in a study that assessed the effectiveness of positive affirmations based on a person’s self-esteem. Researchers concluded that positive affirmations, such as “I’m a lovable person,” helped people with high self-esteem; however, repeating them felt worse for individuals with low self-esteem. 15

The Relevance of Affirmations

Self-affirmations aligned with a person’s values are more likely to be effective.16

Individual Factors

The effectiveness of positive affirmations may be mitigated by personal factors such as self-esteem levels, personal beliefs, personality traits, and others.

Summary/Key Takeaways

Positive affirmations might help to reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression and could help to improve the thinking patterns of people who incorporate them. Substantial research has shown the benefits of positive affirmations. However, there are specific nuances that can influence their effectiveness.


  1. Yeates, L. B. (2016). Émile Coué and his method (I): The chemist of thought and human action. Australian Journal of Clinical Hypnotherapy and Hypnosis, 38(1), 3–27.
  2. Steele, C. M. & Liu, T. J. (1983). Dissonance processes as self-affirmation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45(1), 5-19.
  3. Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, G. L. (2006). The psychology of self-defense: Self-affirmation theory. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 38, pp. 183–242). Elsevier Academic Press.
  4. Schmeichel, B. J., & Vohs, K. (2009). Self-affirmation and self-control: Affirming core values counteracts ego depletion. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(4), 770–782.
  5. Creswell, J. D., Dutcher, J. M., Klein, W. M., Harris, P. R., & Levine, J. M. (2013). Self-affirmation improves problem-solving under stress. PloS one, 8(5), e62593.
  6. Koole, S. L., Smeets, K., Van Knippenberg, A., & Dijksterhuis, A. (1999). The cessation of rumination through self-affirmation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(1), 111.
  7. Samuel, T. S., & Warner, J. (2021). “I can math!”: Reducing math anxiety and increasing math self-efficacy using a mindfulness and growth mindset-based intervention in first-year students. Community College Journal of Research and Practice, 45(3), 205-222.
  8. Nelson, S. K., Fuller, J. A., Choi, I., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2014). Beyond Self-Protection: Self-Affirmation Benefits Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being. Personality & social psychology bulletin, 40(8), 998–1011.
  9. Cooke, R., Trebaczyk, H., Harris, P., & Wright, A. J. (2014). Self-affirmation promotes physical activity. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 36(2), 217–223.
  10. Harris, P. R., Mayle, K., Mabbott, L., & Napper, L. (2007). Self-affirmation reduces smokers’ defensiveness to graphic on-pack cigarette warning labels. Health Psychology, 26(4), 437–446.
  11. Stinson, D. A., Logel, C., Shepherd, S., & Zanna, M. P. (2011). Rewriting the self-fulfilling prophecy of social rejection: Self-affirmation improves relational security and social behavior up to 2 months later. Psychological Science, 22(9), 1145–1149.
  12. Łakuta P. (2021). Brief self-affirmation intervention for adults with psoriasis for reducing anxiety and depression and boosting well-being: Evidence from a randomized controlled trial. Psychological medicine, 1–11. Advance online publication.
  13. O’Brien, K., Sukovieff, A., & Johnson, E. A. (2021). Evidence of delayed, recursive benefits of self-affirmation on anxiety in socially anxious university students. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 40(6), 534-561.
  14. Flynn, M. K., & Bordieri, M. J. (2020). On the failure to replicate past findings regarding positive affirmations and self-esteem. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 16, 49-61.
  15. Wood, J. V., Perunovic, W. Q. E., & Lee, J. W. (2009). Positive self-statements: Power for some, peril for others. Psychological Science, 20(7), 860–866.
  16. Creswell, J. D., Welch, W. T., Taylor, S. E., Sherman, D. K., Gruenewald, T. L., & Mann, T. (2005). Affirmation of Personal Values Buffers Neuroendocrine and Psychological Stress Responses. Psychological Science, 16(11), 846–851.

Related Articles

Explore Topics

Subscribe to our mailing list.