Three RGU students talking together

Let’s thrive, not just survive: the power of mental health affirmations

By Clara Maurillon - 29 April 2024

For Mental Health Awareness Month, we encourage everyone to look at themselves differently through positive affirmations. Lee Boag, Lecturer at the School of Applied Social Sciences, shares his expertise to help us start believing in ourselves and reframing our narrative.

Self-care: A "psychological shield to improve our resilience"

There’s a very human tendency to look for, and even fixate, on negative aspects of our lives. This can be productive when we channel our energy and focus to improvements and fixing things. This bias for the negative can, however, hamper our appreciation of the good things in our lives leaving us somewhat blind or underappreciating the positive.

Our wellbeing does not exist on a continuum of good to bad, and instead spans itself in many directions of the different facets of our lives and experiences. To this end, limiting or mitigating the negative aspects of our lives does not automatically lead to positive outcomes. Positive wellbeing must be instilled within us for us to “thrive not just survive”.

This is where self-care demonstrates its importance in not just instilling wellbeing in our lives, but using it as a psychological shield to help us improve our resilience, mastery and hardiness. The more self-assured we are in of ourselves, the better we can endure hardships and events that threaten our very sense of self.

Within the realm of positive psychology there is a focus on meaning, which in day-to-day circumstances can be too grand a concept to dwell upon frequently. But said meaning is rooted in the things we value, what we hold dear to us, what gives us purpose and creates who we are.

Positive affirmations for "positive wellbeing"

The combination of self-care and value can be seen in self-affirmations; statements about ourselves and recognition of the things we consider paramount to meaning. These could be anything from ‘I am a good friend’, ‘I am an ambitious person’, to ‘I am the greatest Scrabble player this side of Aberdeen’ – so long as it’s something that resonates with us as important.

These self-affirmations should be something that we genuinely believe and be iterated to ourselves on a frequent basis. This could be a mental task, something we write about in a journal, or the classic stand in front of the mirror. I’d personally recommend you pick whichever method feels the most natural as this will make it more likely that you’ll be able to repeat these tasks to the point of making them habitual.

Repeated often enough, they improve our beliefs in ourselves and what we’re capable of. The self-assurance and confidence that self-affirmations instil can inspire us to try new things, endure longer at existing challenges, and protect our sense of self. This level of assuredness enhances our self-worth and has been shown to boost our positive wellbeing.

It might feel a little odd at first but the potential benefits are evident. Unlike other potential interventions, we’re only changing our mindset here – nothing else needs to be changed or tackled.

So identify what it is that makes you tick, what are you most proud of in yourself? Emulate your values and meaning and be kind to yourself.

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