Most of us have a unique voice inside of our minds that dictates our emotions and behaviors. Substance use disorder (SUD) and addiction can taint this voice, causing us to feel out of control. Rather than learning how to work with that voice, many of us take that voice as fact. It is important to understand that the way that we talk to ourselves – especially throughout recovery – matters. The use of affirmations can be a great way to influence positive self-talk and gain control back over our mind’s voice.
Behind the Mind’s Voice
We are constantly talking to ourselves, whether or not we pay conscious attention to it. Learning to address the voice inside of our mind is a crucial aspect of awareness. Likewise, it is an integral part of lasting recovery from SUD and other mental health disorders.
When we experience hardships or regret, the voice inside of our head may tell us we are not good enough. It may tell us we aren’t worthy of that job promotion we were hoping for or not capable of being a single parent. Instead of challenging this voice, we take it as fact. This often leads to anxiety and depression. Self-medicating these issues leads to the use of alcohol and drugs.
When we begin to use substances, we continue to identify with that problematic voice. There is no question that substance abuse impairs our brain structure and functioning. Alcohol and other drugs can alter how the brain carries out specific responsibilities, causing us to feel disoriented, disconnected, and depressed. As we experience specific effects of substance abuse – such as loss of memory, inability to concentrate, increased irritation, and insomnia, for example – our mind’s voice continues to make us feel less than whole. This creates a vicious cycle.
The Importance of Positive Self-Talk
Throughout treatment and recovery, it is vital that we become aware of our negative self-talk and its influence on past behavior. When we make the decision to participate in treatment, we quickly become aware of how our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all interlinked. This is the basic principle behind cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). We may utilize a variety of therapies, including CBT, to alter the patterns created by our thoughts.
In long-term recovery, it is common for feelings of distress to resurface from time to time. Guilt, shame, and more may all be felt as we address the effects and consequences of our past. However, leaving these emotions unmanaged can hinder and jeopardize the recovery process. Fortunately, we can be proactive when learning to address and manage these emotions. Affirmations can help throughout recovery.
What Are Affirmations?
Self-affirmation starts with thinking about our personal core values. Affirmations are positive phrases and statements that we can use to shift our thinking patterns toward our core values. These phrases are most effective when they are repeated regularly – whether said aloud, inside our minds, or written down.
Affirmations can be incredibly valuable as they tap into both our conscious and subconscious minds, fostering necessary growth and healing behind-the-scenes throughout recovery. In addition to shifting negative thought patterns, affirmations can help boost self-esteem and foster motivation for essential behavior change.
According to the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, “Self-affirmation theory posits that people are motivated to maintain a positive self-view and that threats to perceived self-competence are met with resistance. When threatened, self-affirmations can restore self-competence by allowing individuals to reflect on sources of self-worth, such as core values.”
Affirmations can be a powerful coping skill when faced with hardships or emotional distress throughout recovery. We can simply acknowledge how we feel and use an affirmation to change the course of our thought patterns to something more positive.
Examples of Affirmations
Something that is pretty neat about affirmations is that they can be individualized to fit our unique needs. They can be utilized nearly anywhere to help bring us out of negative and problematic thinking patterns. Some examples of beginner-friendly affirmations may include:
- I am strong
- My boundaries matter
- I am motivated
- It is okay not to be okay
- I deserve to be happy
- As a person, I can change and heal
Here are some affirmations that are more specific and often more challenging to incorporate into daily life:
- It’s okay to prioritize my sobriety
- I love myself as I am
- My addiction does not define me
- I have all I need to be happy with myself
- There is beauty in being alive
- I feel safe enough to create intimate relationships with my loved ones
- Help is available when I need it
- I do not need alcohol or other drugs to feel calm or content
How Do I Use Affirmations in Recovery?
There is no one way to use affirmations. However, as they are most effective when used regularly, consider incorporating them into your daily routine. For example, you can spend five minutes every morning stating affirmations aloud. You may also find affirmations more effective for you when you spend three separate times a day using them. This can be in the morning, at lunch, and before bedtime.
Create your own personalized list of affirmations. These can include phrases that you do not yet connect with. For example, if you struggle to love yourself, consider stating “I love myself” when you dedicate time to your affirmations. When you say it or think it, believe it. With every affirmation, you are rewiring your brain to live more in line with your deepest values.
Affirmations are positive phrases that you can use to shift your thinking, boost self-esteem, and foster motivation for behavior change. In recovery, affirmations can be used as a coping skill to replace negative or problematic thought patterns. You can incorporate affirmations into your daily routine, regularly repeating phrases that align with the person you want to become. 12 South Recovery is an addiction and mental health treatment center that believes in the power of affirmations throughout recovery. We offer a number of outpatient treatment programs and therapeutic services that can help you incorporate affirmations into your healing. If you or a loved one is in need of support, call us today at 866-839-6876.