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Using Daily Affirmations to Strengthen Recovery

The thought of using daily affirmations may bring to mind Stuart Smalley sitting in front of a mirror saying, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, gosh darn it, people like me,” but affirmations have a long history of helping people in recovery and they can help you too.

One caution about affirmations is that they aren’t magic. You don’t become impervious to temptation just by saying, “I’m impervious to temptation.” In fact, studies show that if you tell yourself things you don’t actually believe, affirmations can backfire. Your mind rejects the affirmation and you feel discouraged.

A better way to think of affirmations is as a sort of cue. In sports, athletes use cues to help with specific parts of their performance. A sprinter might tell himself he’ll win the race, but when it’s time to compete, his cues will be short, specific reminders like, “Shoot out, head up, lean.” They are key ideas that keep her focused during pressure moments. Similarly, you can use cues to get you through the tough situations you know you’ll face. For example, if you often feel crushing despair, your cue might be, “It’s just a feeling,” or “This is temporary.” It might not cheer you up right away–probably nothing would–but it will get you through it.

AA has many of these kinds of affirmations. These include “One day at a time,” “Easy does it,” “First things first,” “This too shall pass,” “Keep coming back,” “It works if you work it,” and “Progress, not perfection.” Different affirmations help in different situations. Sometimes an affirmation is powerful at first, but then wears off. That’s fine. It probably means your challenges have changed slightly. Find a new one and get all you can out of it.

There are some ways to make affirmations work better. First, state them in the positive. Focus on what you do want rather than what you don’t want. It’s the “don’t think of a pink elephant” effect. Next, simple is better. You’ll never remember that Shakespeare quote when you’re under stress. Finally, identify one or two of your biggest challenges, and figure out an affirmation that helps with those. Don’t try to juggle every good affirmation about recovery. If cravings have been bothering you, maybe your mantra should be “This too shall pass.” Plan ahead. Tell yourself that when a craving hits, you’ll remember, “This too shall pass.”

Affirmations aren’t magic, but they can remind you what to do and think in a tough situation. A good affirmation or two can keep you focused and grounded. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.