The illusory truth effect says that the more times you hear something, the more likely you will believe it. Many of us hold negative beliefs about ourselves due to this kind of repetitive messaging. Societal stigmas around substance use disorder (SUD) only make this a more prevalent issue when seeking treatment. However, as much as this can be used as a weapon to hurt us, we have the power to fight back with self-affirmations.
The Psychological Benefits of Self Affirmation
Self-affirmations provide us with many benefits. In a 2015 study published in Social Cognitive and Neuroscience, results of MRIs indicated that self-affirmations lit up the reward, self-related processing, and prospective regions of the brain. They also aligned with measurable patient behavior changes. These results were further supported by a 2016 study from Psychological Science. The results of this study found self-affirmation to affect the neural reward pathways.
Even as recently as 2021, the importance of repeating messages was supported in scientific literature. A study published last year in Cognitive Research: Principals and Implications found that the more frequently a message is received, the more truthful it is perceived to be. It stands to reason that repeating positive messages would help combat our negative schemas.
5 Positive Affirmations to Use
If you’re looking to utilize this effect to promote healing, here are five statements you should repeat to yourself:
#1. “I am capable of healing.”
One of the most significant barriers to healing is believing you can. SUDs are mental disorders classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. While you can’t completely rid yourself of SUD, you can treat the disease in various ways. You can go to 12-step meetings. You can seek out counseling. You can be in recovery. You are capable of abstaining from substances and healing.
#2. “I feel; therefore, I am.”
This affirmation is a variation on the Rene Descartes quote “I think; therefore, I am.” Despite what the world socializes people to believe, feelings are not a bad thing. They are positive. Your feelings are valid and a reminder that you are human. Being human can be messy, but it’s beautiful and unique.
#3. “My addiction doesn’t define me.”
You are a person with many facets. Maybe you are funny or sarcastic. Maybe you are quiet and reflective. Maybe you’re a parent, sibling, or friend. You have so many words you can choose as descriptions for yourself. You may struggle with SUD, but that is not the most interesting thing about yourself. You don’t need to label yourself as a victim of your disease. With this affirmation, you’re choosing to reject the box others have placed you inside.
#4. “I am allowed to take up space.”
You aren’t too needy. You aren’t too loud. Your personality isn’t too big. It can be all too easy to try and make yourself invisible, especially if you believe you aren’t wanted. You don’t need to make yourself smaller for the sake of others, though. Your mind, your body, and your spirit have a place in this world. Let yourself shine.
#5. “I can be forgiven.”
A significant aspect of 12-step programs is making amends. You write down the people you’ve wronged. You write down the mistakes you’ve made. This is emotionally taxing, and it often requires you to admit some of the worst things you’ve done. However, it is worth the work because you can be forgiven. You may not be able to control the reactions of others, but you can offer yourself internal forgiveness. Grant yourself the compassion you’d offer to anyone else.
How to Best Implement Self-Affirmations
You have the potential to change your mindset by incorporating affirmations into your daily routine. Remember, though, it isn’t magic. One time won’t be enough. You need to say these phrases many times over a period of weeks or months to make a concrete difference.
At Spero Recovery, we recommend doing affirmations first thing in the morning and last thing before bed. You can also set multiple alarm reminders on your phone. Each time it goes off, stop and repeat an affirmation out loud. Another method is, when you have a negative thought about your abilities, take a deep breath. Acknowledge the thought. Acknowledge the emotion it elicits. Challenge the validity of the thought. Then, replace it with an affirmation.
Continually affirming yourself may seem tedious now. However, it will be worth it the first day when you wake up, look in the mirror, and fully embrace yourself.
Self-affirmations can kickstart your motivation, but they aren’t a comprehensive fix. The hardest part of any addiction is admitting you need help from an outside source. If you’re seeking healing from substance use disorder, you’re on the right path. At Spero Recovery, you will have the opportunity to reflect and prioritize your sobriety. You will be surrounded by like-minded people who want to be there with you. Our treatment facility offers 30-day to 90-day programs, guided by others in recovery. We implement elements from a variety of treatment modalities. Once a week, you’ll have the opportunity to learn clinical coping skills from our clinical director. After completing your treatment program, we will still support you in your recovery. You’ll have an aftercare plan and the option to transition into the facility’s sober living. Ultimately, you deserve to live a happy, fulfilling life free from substances. Call (303) 351-7888 for immediate assistance.