• Catherine Lott

USING AFFIRMATIONS IN RECOVERY

Updated: Sep 27, 2021




When we have an eating disorder , we're plagued by intrusive, negative thoughts. When we think like this, our confidence, mood and mindset becomes negative and we can start to lose hope we can even recover.


The problem with negative thoughts is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. We can talk ourselves into believing that we're not good enough, nobody really likes us, we've lost control if we don't restrict or we're not strong enough to do the right recovery action. And, as a result, these thoughts can drag us down, get in between our decisions with food, our relationships, and start to really hold back our recovery.



WHAT ARE AFFIRMATIONS?


Affirmations are short, positive statements that can help you to challenge and overcome these types of self-sabotaging and negative thoughts. When you repeat them consistently, and believe in them, they can lead to positive changes.


You might consider affirmations to be unrealistic, or just an airy-fairy idea; but these positive mental repetitions can reprogramme our thinking patterns so that, over time, we begin to think – and act – differently.


The benefit of affirmations isn't just anecdotal. There has been an increasing number of studies into the efficacy of affirmations; A large body of literature demonstrates that self-affirmations have benefits across threatening situations; affirmations can decrease stress, increase well being, improve academic performance and (importantly for us!) make people more open to behaviour change [for a review, see Cohen and Sherman (2014)]. Self-affirmations are acts that affirm one’s self-worth, often by having individuals reflect on core values, which may give individuals a broader view of the self.

( Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation Christopher N. Cascio,1 Matthew Brook O’Donnell,1 Francis J. Tinney,2 Matthew D. Lieberman,3 Shelley E. Taylor,3 Victor J. Strecher,2 and Emily B. Falk1 )


HOW DO AFFIRMATIONS WORK?


Neuroplasticity, or your brain’s ability to change and adapt to different circumstances throughout your life, offers a clue to help understand not only what makes affirmations work, but how we can make them more effective.


Your brain can't really tell the difference between reality and imagination, which can be useful. Creating a mental image of yourself doing something challenging-like having a takeaway or going to a party-activates many of the same brain areas that actually experiencing these situations would. Regular repetition of these affirming statements can actually encourage your brain to take these positive affirmations as fact. When you really believe you can do something, your actions often follow.



RECOVERY AFFIRMATIONS


Recovery affirmations can be incredibly powerful tools. These statements can resonate with your inner wisdom, connect with the non ED part of your brain and motivate you to choose recovery even in the toughest moments. When healing from an eating disorder, affirmations can be a game-changer.


There are countless ways affirmations can be utilized. You can write them on your mirror with a dry marker, put post-it notes all over your home, (which is something I found really useful), put them in your journal, or put them on a note app like colornote on your phone.



OTHER WAYS OF USING AFFIRMATIONS


You could paint them on slate, or smooth stones or on watercolour paper. You can write them on index cards and keep them with you to refer to them throughout the day. If you present them like this, they can be a great visual reminder of your goals, motivations, and path.


Some people record themselves saying their affirmations and then play them back. You can also find lots of affirmations and motivations in decorative wall art. Remember, there is no “right” way to use affirmations. Keep experimenting until you find what works best for you.


FINDING AND USING YOUR AFFIRMATIONS


Before you start putting them all over your home or on your devices, make sure you select affirmations that fit you. Listen to your intuition and notice how you feel internally when you read them. Search for that connection, the affirmation that resonates with you and your individual journey and struggle, or keeps you in touch with your reasons to recover.


To get the most benefit from affirmations, you’ll want to start a regular practice and make it a habit:

  • Start with 3 to 5 minutes at least twice a day. Try saying affirmations upon waking up and getting into bed. When you're dozing off, you're in a stage when your mind is open and receptive.

  • Repeat each affirmation about 10 times. Listen to yourself saying it, focusing on the words as they leave your mouth. As you say them, believe them to be true.

  • Ask a trusted loved one to help. Listening to someone else repeat your affirmations may help reinforce your belief in them.

  • Make your routine consistent. Try not to skip any days. If you meditate, affirmations can be a great addition to your daily practice.

  • Real change takes time. So stick to it


Another benefit of a daily routine? Practicing affirmations can activate the reward system in your brain, which can have an impact on the way you experience both emotional and physical pain.


And have patience. It will probably feel weird, awkward and uncomfortable. Many of us with eating disorders have trauma history and low self-esteem so saying kind, accepting, loving things to ourselves can feel awkward and unnatural.



WHEN AFFIRMATIONS MIGHT NOT WORK


Affirmations don't work for everyone. Negative thinking can certainly hold you back, especially in recovery. Persistent negative thinking can be the product of thoughts and ideas that were inculcated from past experiences such as abuse or bullying, and can be a symptom of depression or anxiety. Help from a GP for medication or referral may be needed and support from a therapist can help you identify potential causes of negative or unwanted thoughts and explore coping strategies, which might include affirmations alongside other tools.


 

FAVOURITE RECOVERY AFFIRMATIONS


  • Recovery means both my body and my brain are walking the same path, hand in hand.

  • I will fight this illness and feed myself, not fight myself and feed this illness.

  • I am safe. I am loved. I am wise.

I would rather have a big life than a small body.
  • If I do what I’ve always done, I’ll get what I’ve always got.

  • I have to GO through it to GET through it.

  • This too shall pass

  • I am strong.

Anxiety, depression, and these emotions won’t last forever. But if I use behaviours, my eating disorder will.
  • I. AM. ENOUGH.

  • I deserve recovery as much as anyone does.

  • My eating disorder no longer serves me.

I can sit in discomfort. It will not last forever and I will learn from it.
  • I am human and all humans feel this way sometimes.

  • My eating disorder does not serve me anymore.

  • I am worth more than a number.

The problem is not my body. The problem is society.
  • Yes, it is hard. And I have done so many hard things before.

  • I haven’t come this far to only come this far.

  • I am not alone.

I don’t have to earn food. I have the right to eat just by being alive.
  • Time and trust. Trust and time.

  • Just do the next right thing.

  • Trust my body. Trust the process.

Food will not hurt me as much as my eating disorder is hurting me
  • This will pass. I can be happy. I need to keep fighting.

  • I'm not losing control. I'm taking it back.

  • I'm not “letting myself go.” I'm letting myself live.

  • I am stronger than my eating disorder.

I am more than what gravity tells me I am.
  • My happiness does not depend on my weight or size, but on who I am and what I do.

  • Today I will abandon my destructive behaviours and start using behaviours that are good for me.

I am a survivor .I am powerful. I don’t need my eating disorder to be good enough.
  • I am brave and strong. starting today I will stand up for myself.

  • My life is just beginning, not ending.

  • I will not define myself by my past.

  • How I feel about myself has nothing to do with what I eat or don’t eat.

  • The process of recovery may be an epic one, but it’s worth it and I know it.

I deserve to be happy and I deserve to fulfil my dreams
  • I deserve to treat my body with respect.

  • I will love and appreciate myself.

  • I don’t need to do excessive exercising to deserve food.

  • Everyday I become stronger and healthier.



Thanks so much for those who shared their inspirational affirmations with me! If your favourite affirmation isn't included, I'd love to hear from you! Which affirmations help you the most?