There is a saying I have always loved: “Talk to yourself like you would to someone you love” (Dr. Brené Brown). What this means is showing the same compassion, patience, and understanding that you would show a friend or a loved one. It means showing yourself kindness, and avoiding the urge to beat yourself when you are down.
And when you have depression, the urge can be especially daunting. Part of coping with depression is making a conscious effort to replace negative affirmations with positive ones.
Learning to talk to yourself like you would to someone you love can be a powerful tool in fighting depressive symptoms. What would you say to your best friend if they were experiencing depression and came to talk to you about it?
Getting into the habit of giving yourself positive affirmations when you are depressed can help ground you, refocus you, and motivate you in your treatment.
What is Depression?
Depression is a very common, yet often misunderstood psychological disorder. It is not the same as being sad, lazy or in a funk. These feelings are all quite normal; we all have good days and bad ones, too. We all feel blue or unmotivated from time to time.
Depression is when all you feel is sad, lazy, blue, and unmotivated day after day, for more than a couple of weeks. The constant and persistent nature of a generally sad or negative mood could be a sign of a depressive mood disorder. Depression is a serious mood disorder that can negatively impact your health and quality of life without proper treatment.
Types of Depression
Just like ice cream (yum!), depression comes in various flavors. There is not just one kind of depression, but numerous types of depressions relative to certain situations, times of year and/or other mental health disorders. Here’s little bit about each:
Major Depression classic type of depression and what’s diagnosed, or labeled, as MDD (it’s also known as unipolar depression). People with major depression have symptoms of depression most of the day, nearly every day, for episodes of at least two weeks and can experience recurrent episodes throughout their lives.
Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD) used to be called Dysthymia. It’s a chronic form of depression—usually with milder symptoms—in which an episode lingers for a long period of time, sometimes two years or more. It could be described as feeling like you’re living on autopilot.
Situational Depression, also referred to as Adjustment Disorder, refers to depression that is triggered by a significant life-changing event.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) emerges during particular seasons- most often during the winter and brought on from diminished sunlight.
Bipolar Disorder, previously manic depression, involves alternating between episodes of depression and mania.
Psychotic Depression occurs when a person experiences depressive episodes so severe they start having false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing things that others can’t hear or see (hallucinations).
Postpartum Depression is when mothers feel disconnected from their newborn baby or fear that they could hurt their child.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is a severe type of depression that shows up during the second half of the menstrual cycle.
Atypical Depression- this kind of depression is brought on when people see their mood improve or when something positive happens.
Symptoms of Depression
Although depression is not always visible to the naked eye, it is very important to be aware of the symptoms. It’s most important to remember that clinical depression is persistent for two weeks or more. Those who live with from depression may experience:
- loss of interest in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities
- lack of motivation
- feelings of hopelessness
- changes in sleep patterns
- changes in appetite
- lack of concentration
- loss of energy/fatigue
- low self-esteem
- changes in weight
- physical aches and pains
Depression Causes and Risks
Life can be messy and unpredictable. Many things can trigger a depressive episode. We go through so many ups and downs like trauma, loss of a loved one, difficult relationships, illness and other stressful situations like losing a job or moving to a new state (Randolph, 2016). Here are just some of the many factors that can cause depression:
Genetics If your family members suffer from any mental health conditions, there is a greater chance you may also have some type of mental illness, such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Life Circumstances There are instances in life that can initiate depression in some people, such as a death in the family, abuse whether it be physical, emotional or sexual, growing up low SES, and having a disability.
Health Related Conditions Many people who are diagnosed with a chronic illness or chronic pain experience depression as well as other health related conditions.
Medications At times the warning label on the bottle will say that this medication can cause depression. For most people they do not believe it can happen to them but medications can affect others differently. Please read the side effects of any medication you are taking, especially if you are at risk for depression.
Drug and Alcohol Use An extremely common trigger that many living with depression can experience is drug and alcohol abuse. Often a form of self-medication, various substances are used to mask their emotional pain and can, in turn, increase their risk of depression.
Mindset and Mental Health
Your mindset is closely intertwined with your mental health and is a well-known predictor for attributions, goals and self-conceptions. There are two types of mindset:
Fixed mindset is the belief that you are born with basic abilities, intelligence, and talents that can’t be changed. An example of having a fixed mindset is believing that you were born to be bad at math…yeah, me too.
Growth mindset is understanding that talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence. So conversely, a growth mindset is that anyone can be good at math if they put in the effort to be.
Comparatively, having a growth mindset leads to more adaptive emotion regulation strategies and greater psychological health (Schroder et. Al.). In other words, when you believe you can be happy and successful, you put yourself in a better psychological position to be happy and successful.
The mindset you have affects the way that you react in times of crisis, in times of joy, and everything in between. The idea of developing a growth mindset is extremely important in developing a more positive outlook on oneself and one’s life. It is very important to understand that your mindset is essential to recovery.
Affirmations for When You’re Depressed
Affirmations are used to restore a broader perspective of self, and soften the impact of any real or perceived imminent threat. They expand the contents of the working self-concept and narrow the scope of any threat (Critcher & Dunning). Using affirmations are a reminder that the threatened domain isn’t all that defines the self; instead, it is just one narrowed aspect of the self. And the ego needs less repair.
Believing you are stupid because you failed a math test is an attack on the self. But with a growth mindset and using affirmations to see the bigger picture you find yourself saying “I am not very good at math, but with more practice I can do better next time.” Believing you are capable of doing better is an act of self-love.
According to a study conducted to explore the impact of helpful affirmations on depression, the most impactful affirmation that a person who is experiencing a major depressive episode can hear is: This will not last, even if at times it feels that way. In time I will get better. (Kinner et al).
Overall, personal responsibility and empowerment are often associated with successful outcomes in treating psychological problems- especially depression. Below is a list of affirmations that can help you develop your own practice of using them for a stronger growth mindset. They are short and sweet- and meant to be used however you see fit. Combine them. Change the language. You do you. After all they are meant to help you see the situation for what it is and not what your depression has made it out to be.
- I am never alone.
- I will be okay.
- I am enough.
- I am capable.
- I am loved.
- I deserve love and to be loved.
- I deserve happiness.
- I deserve the world.
- I am worthy of a wonderful life.
- It’s okay to make mistakes. Learn from them.
- I am capable. I am strong.
- I am stronger than I believe.
- I never need to change who I am for other people.
- I can learn to be in control of my emotions.
- I can learn to accept the things I cannot control.
- Some things are out of my control.
- Being myself is the most beautiful thing ever.
- What I want is already here, or on its way to me.
- I am thankful for a body that allows me to breathe.
- A lot of what I am worried about today is only temporary.
- Everyday, I am healing and becoming a better me.
- It’s okay if I am not the person I expected I would be.
- I am better than what I expected.
- I am unfathomably beautiful.
- There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Even when the tunnel seems like it goes on forever, trust that truth.
- I have support from those who love me.
- The power to heal myself is within me.
- I can do it.
- I am not crazy.
- I am not a burden.
- I am not my depression.
- My depression does not make me weak.
- On the contrary, it makes me strong.
- This too shall pass.
- I will not feel this way forever.
- I am blessed to be able to watch another sunset.
- I am blessed to be able to live another day.
- I am capable of being happy.
- I will overcome.
Healing is possible, but do recognize healing is not linear. If you fall down, you are always capable of getting back up again.
Treatment for Depression
Fortunately, there are many forms of treatment when it comes to depression. If you become concerned about your level of depression, it’s best to seek the support of a mental health professional- such as a social worker, counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist. When you see someone professionally trained in mental health care, they can help you understand the difficulties you’re experiencing.
Sure just the thought of seeking mental healthcare can create more depression. You may think they will make you talk about your past. Or that you won’t connect with them to feel comfortable to talk about anything. Maybe you’re afraid to cry in front of anyone let alone a stranger. Worse- you think they’ll put you in a hospital, rehab or institution.
Please know I don’t bring this up to elicit fear but to say- those who work in the mental health field are trained to work with you at your own pace. You don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to. Ever. The idea is to create a safe space for you to feel comfortable to connect with someone who can help you understand your symptoms and learn to manage them. Therapists are legally bound to uphold privacy and confidentiality. That means they can only repeat what you’ve said to them if they are concerned about your safety or the safety of others. Anything else you tell a therapist, they cannot repeat to anyone else without your consent. You literally have to sign paperwork stating they can talk to others about what you’ve shared with them.
Comment below with your favorite affirmation!
About the author
Caroline Platzman is a Behavioral Health Counselor working with adults diagnosed with schizophrenia. She is passionate about mental health, journalism, nonprofit advocacy, and public relations. Caroline is also a dedicated guitarist and artist in her free time.