What Positive Thoughts Can Help Mental Health Recovery?

Positive thoughts are instrumental in mental health recovery, but they’re not always easy to find. Here are some positivity tips from HealthyPlace.

Positive thoughts are few and far between when your mental health is suffering. However, an increase in positivity may be one of the first signs that you are on the way to recovery or that your treatment is working. When you’re getting better from a mental illness, you’ll want to absorb all the positivity you can to counteract the negative thought cycles that so often accompany anxiety and depression. With this in mind, let’s explore how positive thoughts can help mental health recovery.

Why are Positive Thoughts Important After Mental Illness?

A positive thought after a mental health crisis is like the first rainfall after a drought: you want to believe it’s a sign of hope, of better things to come, but however much you want it to last, you just can’t grasp it. You may have more control of your thinking that you realize. Positivity isn’t just something that happens to you; it’s a skill like any other that requires regular practice.  

Thankfully, positive thinking is like exercise for the brain: the more you do it, the better the benefits will be – therefore the more you will want to continue.

Examples of Positive Thoughts During Mental Health Recovery

Mental illness is complex, and recovery isn’t finite. Therefore, you’re unlikely to be feeling your best while you’re still getting better. With this in mind, the most effective positive thoughts for mental health recovery are those that challenge the negative beliefs often come with mental illness.

  • Thought Replacement

Here is a useful exercise to try: each time your mind has something negative to say about you or your situation, consider how a highly optimistic person would respond and tell yourself that instead. In psychologist’s terms, this technique is known as “thought replacement” ("What is Thought-Stopping? Therapy, Techniques, Exercises").

Here are some examples:

Instead of: “I can’t hold down a job because of my mental illness,” try, “It’s great that I can take the time I need to recover fully and take care of myself.”

Instead of: “I’m such a drain on those around me,” try, “I’m lucky to have so many people supporting me. I must be really loved.”

By doing this, you can actually change the direction of your mind and alter your thinking patterns using positive thoughts.

  • Empowering Affirmations

Negative thought cycles can make us feel we have no power. These thoughts also feed into negative habits, which can turn into a vicious cycle of negativity and self-sabotage. Next time you feel out of control, take a deep breath and repeat one of these empowering affirmations:

“I am calm. I am in control.”
“I have the power to choose.”
“To take care of others, I must take care of myself.”
“I am in charge of my own life.”

You can try these positive thoughts in the morning, during breaks at work, or anytime you feel negative thoughts creeping in.

  • Challenging Negative Beliefs

One way to invite more positive thoughts in life is to challenge the negative things you tell yourself. This is a common technique in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), where a therapist will ask a patient to share his or her negative beliefs. Examples of negative beliefs include:

“I am terrible at my job.”
“Everyone thinks I’m pathetic.”
“I am no good at anything.”
“My life is a mess.”
“I will never find happiness.”

The therapist will then challenge these negative beliefs by asking questions like:

“What evidence is there that this is true, outside your own mind?”
“Is there evidence to suggest that the opposite is true?”
“Has anyone ever told you something that challenged your negative beliefs? If so, could they be right?”
“Is your view the only view that matters here?”
“What would it look like if that belief weren’t true?”

You don’t have to go to therapy to use this technique, although talking to a licensed professional can be a useful part of treatment for mental health recovery. To use this technique in your daily life, simply challenge the negative beliefs that come into your head. If they feel overwhelming, try writing down them down. You can create a separate column for answers to the questions above.

Positive Thoughts: Part of An Ongoing Treatment Plan

It’s important to remember that self-help techniques, like positive thought training, are not to be used in place of a proper treatment plan. These exercises are intended to be used alongside help from a professional therapist and/or psychiatrist to help you in your recovery.

Positive thoughts won’t take effect overnight. Although you may see some immediate benefits, such as a clearer mind or healthier perspective, positive thinking is most effective when practiced regularly. Try to complete at least one short positivity exercise each day, be it meditation, an affirmation or a positive journaling exercise. Over time, you will start to see that it is possible to unhook from negative thinking patterns – and that the benefits can be life-changing.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2021, December 31). What Positive Thoughts Can Help Mental Health Recovery?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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