I’ve always been an active person. I can’t remember a time before last year when I wasn’t doing something. Tests, assignments, and projects took up my entire school year, and during holiday breaks, I worked on my blog. So when the pandemic hit, I found myself in an unusual position. I had loads of free time and no major obligations, since school was temporarily suspended. I could have started a workout routine, written a short novel, or learned a new skill (heck, probably a dozen).
But I just…couldn’t.
I felt isolated from my friends (texting just isn’t my thing), I couldn’t go to the movies or restaurants, and I deeply missed the hustle and bustle of my city. I was bored, unmotivated, certainly a bit depressed. While I was doom-scrolling through social media and watching case numbers rise, I was shocked to see people (friends and strangers) doing amazing things, like building websites or starting new businesses, even though they were stuck at home, too.
I felt even worse. Here I was, with so much time and so little to do, and I was being unproductive. Useless, even. Self-disparaging thoughts ran through my head all the time. Another day you’re going to waste doing nothing, amirite? I’d say to myself when I woke up. Unsurprisingly, these thoughts didn’t lift my spirits. The more I mentally beat myself up for not doing anything, the more I grew to dislike myself. Which only led to more negative thoughts.
In an effort to break this cycle, I searched for self-care tips on the internet. Much to my chagrin, many of these tips involved activities; while they were helpful, I couldn’t bring myself to start a daily routine, or try a new form of exercise, or any of the other dozens of recommended active changes. I needed something easy: a simple, passive way to improve my mental health. And I finally found it, from one of hundreds of millions of blog posts deep within Pinterest. It’s the practice of using positive affirmations.
What are Positive Affirmations?
Positive affirmations are short phrases you repeat to yourself every day, as frequently as necessary, to drown out the voices in your head that give power to things you don’t like about yourself. Sometimes those voices point to parts of your physical appearance you want to change, or areas of your personal or professional life you feel need improving. Positive affirmations are ultimately specific to each person, and my word choices will likely differ from yours. For example, I use phrases like, You’re awesome even if you aren’t productive; You’re good enough; You’re not a failure. Saying these phrases to myself each day gives me a sense of peace that overwhelms those awful thoughts.
According to a 2014 study, regular affirmations have been shown to increase educational, wellness, and relationship outcomes, with effects that can last for months or years. Self-affirmations have also been shown to help people regain confidence in themselves by encouraging them to focus on sources of self-worth, such as future-oriented values over day-to-day activities.
In the morning, sit somewhere you feel comfortable, like on your bed or at the kitchen table.
Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. (This is optional. If you don’t feel calmer or experience other positive changes when you do this, skip it next time and breathe however you want.)
Think about your chosen affirmations and recite them (in your head) multiple times. For a bit more fun, look into a mirror and recite them out loud. You might feel silly, but it might also make you laugh. Reciting affirmations aloud also helps the practice feel more intentional, in my opinion.
Pick up a sticky note and a pen. This may sound weird, but which pen you use can make all the difference here. Try a glitter pen or your favorite thick Sharpie. I like to use a colorful marker because the colors make me happy. Write down your affirmations, slowly and deliberately.
Stick your notes on your bedroom wall, a notice board, a mirror, or your work desk—anywhere you visit regularly, where you’re bound to see those words every day, even multiple times a day.
Recite your affirmations again anytime you feel down—they shouldn’t be limited to a particular time, place, or event, lest they start to feel like a chore. This is your practice, and you can decide when and how it’s done.
Start the day with positive affirmations, and you’ll find that the hours feel better spent, and that your life feels more vibrant. For me, once I started incorporating positive affirmations into my routine, I felt less guilty on my idle days, and I’ve come to love myself a little more as a result. As my days have gotten busier, practicing affirmations encourages me to look forward to the start of each new day—and hey, I get to play with some cute stationery in the process!