positive affirmations

The Effect of Positive Affirmations in Addiction Recovery

Daily positive affirmations can have a profound effect on general mental well-being, and play an important part of many addiction recovery programs. Positive thinking and self-affirming thoughts can have a profound effect on mental health and enhance feelings of happiness and well-being. Consistent positive self-affirmations can produce an adaptive, broad sense of self that increases resilience to challenges, social pressures, uncomfortable situations, and feelings of exclusion. This is particularly important to those in recovery from a substance use disorder who are likely to face continual challenges in maintaining sobriety, managing triggers, and preserving good mental well-being.

Performing positive affirmations may feel a little funny at first, raising questions over how something so basic can result in such positive change. Despite the skepticism, however, the theory and science behind affirmations have consistently shown there to be a variety of positive effects.

What are Positive Affirmations?

Positive affirmations are statements said in the present tense that include only positive words and make a statement as fact, such as; “I have a right to enjoy life without any drugs, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, tobacco, or other substances” or “I know that I am capable of making decisions to support my growth.”

A positive self-affirmation is a phrase that can help you to work past self-sabotaging or otherwise negative thoughts and feelings. Those who tend to engage in self-destructive behaviors can often become stuck in a cycle of believing they are incapable of change and that lack of self-control and self-sabotage is inevitable. Regularly reminding yourself, through positive affirmations, that you, in fact, have the strength, control, and desire to avoid these behaviors can help you avoid relapse.
For individuals who frequently find themselves getting caught up in negative self-talk or negative beliefs about themselves, positive affirmations can be used to combat or counteract these subconscious patterns and replace them with more adaptive narratives.

The Benefits of Positive Affirmations In Addiction Recovery

One of the greatest barriers to addiction treatment and recovery is defensiveness.  Many people struggle to come to terms with their substance use problems, as well as how they are affecting their own life and the lives of people around them. This is often as a result of a feeling that engaging in recovery is a threat to your identity and sense of self, so resistance to treatment is a way of protecting these.

Regularly repeating and affirming your values and strengths can work as an ‘anchor’, and reduce defensiveness when aspects of your identity may be threatened. Knowing and feeling certain about these values also allows individuals to be more open to dealing with the peripheral issues that are often causing destructive or negative behavior.

Affirming the importance of relationships with family and loved ones as part of your identity can help with recovery, increasing the desire to engage with issues that may threaten these values, as opposed to acting defensively.

The Theories and Science Behind Affirmations

Understanding the theory behind self-affirmation theory requires knowledge of self-identity, self-concept and self-integrity.

Through affirmations, the intention is to maintain self-identity. This differs from self-concept and the intention is not for this to be a rigid and strictly defined self-concept. In fact, self-identity can be flexible – instead of viewing ourselves in one ‘fixed’ way such as ‘daughter’ or ‘drinker’. Positive affirmations allow adoption of a range of different identities and roles, meaning that success can also be defined in different ways.

Self-affirmation theory suggests that maintaining self-identity is about being competent in ways that we personally value, as opposed to society’s expectations of the perfect and exceptional human.

Self-integrity means behaving and living your life in a way that authentically, genuinely deserves praise. It means choosing, repeating, and acting on your affirmations for the right reasons, that being to genuinely live in congruence with our values instead of to receive praise from others.

Neuroscientific research has found results in line with self-affirmation theory. There is MRI evidence that suggests certain neural pathways are increased when people practice self-affirmation tasks. Parts of the brain involved in positive valuation and self-related information processing become more active when we think about our personal values.

Repeating affirmations regularly while thinking of a positive emotional experience helps to create new memories to replace encoded memories associated with the euphoria or high of drug use.

Great Affirmations for Recovery

Positive affirmations work best when they are specific to you, your values, and your life. It can be helpful to spend time reflecting on what your values are, what you wish to achieve and how you wish to get there. The journey to sobriety can be different for everyone, and people may have different reasons for substance abuse and motivations to become sober. Self-affirmations should reflect this.

It may be helpful to know some common and useful general affirmations for addiction recovery, as a starting point for your own.

1. I like the person that I am becoming – It is important not to overly concern yourself with the opinions of other people. The only thing that matters is that you like the person you’re evolving into. As long as you are true to this, you are worthy of your own love.

  1. All of my problems can be solved – It may be that in the past, a person with a substance abuse disorder would turn to alcohol or other substances when faced with a problem that seemed difficult or impossible to solve. This is a reminder that there is always hope.
  2. I am in control of my own life story – Taking ownership of your fast decisions and behaviors is a core part of recovery. You also must recognize the power you have to maintain sobriety as you go forward.
  3. I am not my addiction – It is important to recognize that addiction is an illness, and not a character trait. Reminding yourself of this when others suggest otherwise or when your identity feels damaged or attacked can avoid negative pathways of thinking and even relapse.

Positive affirmations can be an incredibly helpful tool, with a profound impact on mental health. When repeated daily and coupled with controlled breathing and positive thinking, they can help create a more optimistic view of life and the recovery process.

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