The Power of Positive Affirmations: Boosting Confidence During Cancer Recovery

Amidst the challenges that cancer patients face during treatment and recovery, positive affirmations are a powerful tool that has been shown to greatly improve our well-being. Positive affirmations enable us to counteract negative thinking and focus our energies on more productive aspects of healing such as mental and physical resilience, stress reduction and spiritual preparedness for the journey that lies ahead. 

What Exactly Are Positive Affirmations?

Positive affirmations are empowering statements that we can repeat to ourselves - either aloud or internally – to help remind us that we are strong, competent  and capable of facing challenging  experiences. Compared to fear and negative self-talk, which can increase anxiety, stress, depression and PTSD, positive affirmations can help our brain compartmentalize the negative aspects of illness and literally rewire our thought patterns.

According to Psychology Today, through repetition and frequency, daily doses of optimism have the power to reprogram the way we think. “Just as we do repetitive physical exercises to get stronger, affirmations can be thought of as exercises for our mind/brain… Learning to think differently is part of how we learn to get rid of the pain pathways and replace them with new circuitry.” 

Reshaping Our Thinking

Positive affirmations alter the way we speak to ourselves, evolving a statement from “I can’t, or I won’t be able to do this” into “I can, and I will.” In the midst of a cancer diagnosis, positive affirmations can encourage a shift in our mindset and emotional state, alleviating some of the anxiety and discomfort we endure and promoting optimism and moments of ease. 

Some simple yet powerful affirmations include:

  • I can get through this.
  • I am doing the best I can, and that is enough.
  • I am strong and capable of overcoming this challenge.
  • My body is leading me to health.
  • I am loved and supported by my family, friends and healthcare team.

While positive affirmations cannot take the place of physical modalities and medical interventions, they can serve as complementary practices to help support our emotional and psychological health. 

In 2017, the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing published a study entitled, Symptom Management: The Effects of Self-Affirmation on Chemotherapy-Related Symptoms. The purpose of the study was to investigate how self-affirmation and nature sounds affected 140 chemotherapy patients. The patients were divided into 3 groups – one that listened to affirmations, one that listened to nature sounds and one that listened to both affirmations and nature sounds. In the group that listened to positive affirmations, the results were profound, noting a significant reduction in pain, tiredness, drowsiness, anxiety, depression, loss of appetite and lack of well-being.

“The findings… indicate that listening to positive self-affirmations is a promising non-pharmacologic method to manage symptoms related to chemotherapy. This method is easy to use, economic, and adaptable to patients’ needs. Therefore, oncology nurses should consider this method as a part of their care plan and encourage patients to take part in their own care by selecting affirmative sentences in accordance with their needs. The more that patients and nurses collaborate in this method, the easier managing chemotherapy-related symptoms will be.”

Boosting Confidence

Not only can positive affirmations encourage mental and emotional perseverance, they can also create more body confidence and self-acceptance. As cancer patients, we face a multitude of experiences and physical changes that impact how we look and feel in our skin. Helping turn self-criticism into self-love and self-care is essential to helping us accept these changes, boost confidence and honor the strength of the body that was forced to navigate them.. 

Body positive phrases that we can practice include:  

  • My body is leading me to health. 
  • I honor my body and am prioritizing self-care.
  • My scars are badges of courage and reminders of my strength.
  • True beauty radiates from within. I am even more beautiful now than I was before cancer.
  • I’m proud of my body for getting through this challenging time.

While it’s always important to address head-on the physical and emotional pain and suffering we encounter during a cancer diagnosis, taking time to incorporate  positive affirmations into our healing plan has powerful effects on our mind, body and spirit. Every time we repeat these mantras, we speak them into the universe and our beings, strengthening our fortitude, improving our outlook and ultimately, helping ourselves heal. These phrases remind us that even on tough days, there is hope, and on good days, there is much to celebrate.

“Self-affirmations help us to expand and broaden our sense of self, while at the same time making a challenge or a threat seem smaller. It’s a relative shift: self-affirmations make us feel bigger and challenges and threats feel smaller as a consequence.” – Dr. David R. Hamilton