Can Daily Affirmations and Positive Quotes Really Help Your Mental Health?

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Whether they are looking for the rundown on early morning news or checking out what their friends are having for breakfast, Americans reach for their smartphones in mass numbers as soon as they wake up in the morning. In fact, according to a survey conducted by ReportLinker, almost 46% of American respondents admitted they check their phones before they even get out of bed in the morning.

For some, that number sounds alarmingly high and somewhat worrisome — addiction is real, after all — but it could be argued that the instant phone check isn’t a bad thing if you’re reaching for your phone to read something positive. Millions of happy users share their joy each day by posting encouraging quotes and uplifting thoughts in hopes of inspiring others. If you wake up eager to see the day’s posts, does that mean the positive messages are working? Let’s see what science has to say about the benefits of encouraging quotes on our mental health.

Social media can seem like an echo chamber of negativity. It doesn’t take long to find two strangers — or even two supposed friends — disagreeing and posting insults back and forth for the whole world to see. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all started with a similar purpose to bring friends and people with common interests together. Instead, it often seems to divide us more than ever before. So, naturally, it’s refreshing when bits of calm break through the chaos in the form of positive, uplifting quotes and words of encouragement.

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On Instagram, #positivevibes has been posted nearly 56 million times, with #positivity coming in at more than 27 million. Based on information provided by Google Trends, the search for “coronavirus positive quotes” reached 100% peak interest after quarantine began. It is definitely true that sharing encouraging words with both friends and strangers promotes engagement and leads to more followers. For those positive folks who are in the industry of building a social media presence, business is booming.

Humans Are Drawn to Positive Quotes and Affirmations

When you research the scientific effects of reading good positive quotes, it yields results filled with some of the best words of encouragement, proving an uplifting thought for the day is never more than a quick Google search away. The right coaching can have a considerable effect on a young athlete, and the same concept applies to the self-selection process for people who are drawn to motivational sayings.

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Psychologist and motivation expert Jonathan Fader, Ph.D., says good positive quotes about life have “a little bit of implicit coaching,” as they’re building the “self-efficacy in that kind of dialogue that you’re having with yourself.” Not only are people drawn to positive affirmations for self-fulfilling motivation, but the words themselves have a fascinating cognitive result.

Ward Farnsworth, Dean of the University of Texas School of Law and author of Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, claims we have an “appetite for well-expressed wisdom, motivational or otherwise.” Humans are aspirational creatures, and as media psychology expert Scott Sobel notes, the most encouraging quotes from respected leaders “affect us on a primal level.” People are drawn to word usage, structure and arrangement, but perceptions of public figures work to make the quotes even more powerful.

Scientists Study the Effects of Positive Content

We’ve already established the human desire for aspiration, and our ability to motivate ourselves is a mindful practice. Reading positive quotes and affirmations gives us the well-expressed wisdom we need and increases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin in our bodies. These increased hormones allow us to recognize our own emotions without judgment. The mindfulness and self-awareness that come from the encouraging words create acceptance and love of ourselves.

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The combination of inspirational and emotionally compelling words and graphics plays a direct role in our psyche from day to day. Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman co-authored Words Can Change Your Brain, a book that claims “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress,” according to PsycheCentral. The article also states that words like “peace” and “love” enhance the frontal lobes to “propel the motivational centers of the brain into action.” On the other hand, hostile words disrupt the production of neurochemicals that prevent stress and anxiety.

Negativity Also Has an Effect on Neural Pathways

Nearly every child grows up chanting the phrase “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” Prevalent all across American schoolyards for generations, the saying is meant to encourage children to ignore the insults of other children. As it turns out, sticks and stones do cause physical pain, but words aren’t actually harmless. They can actually result in emotional and psychological injury. Negative verbiage increases Implicit Processing (IMP) in the subgenual anterior cingulate cortex (sACC). Put simply, negative words and affirmations release anxiety-inducing hormones.

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We have a choice when it comes to the content we consume each day, but our desire for aspiration could lead us down the wrong path. Focusing on negative words may cause negative self-talk, and negative words spoken, heard, read or even just thought can cause stress and affect our long-term mental health. Anyone who feeds their minds with positivity and joy to boost their happiness could just as quickly suffer from depression after viewing malicious content.

Learn How to Block Out the Bad

Online negativity feels unavoidable at times, but deliberately focusing your mind on the best and most encouraging quotes and content can yield positive results. On Instagram, take deliberate steps to unfollow or block any users who constantly promote negativity. (Yes, this includes family and friends.) On Twitter, you can take the unfollow button and block feature to a high-tech level by using an option to mute specific words. This gives you the opportunity to ignore anyone who doesn’t inspire you from within, and these positive steps will go a long way toward improving your positive internet experience.

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Once you block the negative, focus your attention on following sites and users who always share inspirational messages. Millions of people out there want to spread encouragement and joy. Some content creators and media companies, including The Dodo, include visual accompaniment with their affirmations and positive words. Take control of your happiness by connecting with like-minded individuals who strive to bring out the best in one another. Even science has given us a clear message that we should all spread the positive words shared with us to improve someone else’s life.