On a daily basis, I deal with several mental health hurdles: the seasonal depression that arrives without fail every November. The general anxiety that causes me to worry about every little thing. The panic disorder that rears its head a couple times every month, resulting in attacks that leave me depleted for days. There’s a lot that I can’t control when it comes to these disorders.

I know I’m not unique. So many people are dealing with mental health challenges. Even with the medications out there, there’s only so much we can do about our brain chemicals, but there is something that we actually can control: what thoughts channel through our minds.

I’ve recently been learning about neural pathways, the roadways in the brain that can either be strengthened or weakened over time. Guess what? It turns out that our thoughts deeply impact these lanes that run through our nervous systems. Think of well-worn ruts on a dirt trail. The more you think a negative thought, the deeper and more established that rut will become. But…lucky for us, the same goes for positive thoughts.

That’s the scientific explanation for just how incredibly beneficial the power of positive thinking can be to our mental wellness. It’s the opposite of that negative self-talk that pops up way-too-easily in all our brains. I’m learning that there’s one very effective way to combat that negativity and boost mental health: it’s affirmations.

The Power of Positive Vibes

So, what’s an affirmation? Also known as a mantra or a motto, it’s basically a positive statement that allows you to feel grateful and helps you turn a tough situation around. For positive inspiration, you can read a book of affirmations or search for some online (Pinterest is a goldmine for these) or you can come up with your own as they apply to your life.

Since February is the season of love (and that includes self-love, of course), it’s a perfect time to bring some of those warm, fuzzy, inspiring affirmations into your life and into the lives of the people who are important to you. Here are four situations that are ideal for getting important practice with your affirmations.

1. At the Gym

New year, new you, right? Actually, you are good just the way you are. But maybe you want to improve upon what’s already awesome. This is true of everyone, but you know what else is true of everyone? Negative self-talk, even at our most amazing. Those mirrors at the gym? Those people you’re comparing yourself to? These things don’t help when it comes to that less-than-sunny voice in your head.

When this happens (and believe me, it happens to everyone), try to transform your thoughts with an affirmation: “I’m strong, beautiful and capable.” “I’m getting better every day.” “I am enough.” Practice saying these repeatedly in your head until you actually believe them, and then go conquer that workout.

2. With Friends and Family

Remember how I mentioned that everyone has negative self-talk that chatters in our heads? It’s true of our friends and loved ones, too. Instead of getting annoyed at yet another text from your friend or having to go to a big, loud family dinner, switch that thinking around and change that pattern so you can inspire yourself and those around you in the process.

You can silently say to yourself: “I love and support everyone around me.” “I wish peace and tranquility for my loved ones.” “I’m sending good vibes to my friends.”

3. With a Partner

This way of thinking can apply to romantic relationships, too. Even in the midst of an argument, or on the flipside, when you’re both perfectly happy to be around each other, think those affirmations and send some positive energy their way. These can include affirmations like, “Every time we disagree, our relationship improves,” “Our marriage gets better every day,” or “I love us even when we’re imperfect.”

4. When You’re Alone

When it’s quiet and you’re alone, unhealthy, negative thoughts can easily creep in—this can be doubly difficult if you also struggle with a mental health disorder that can be brought down even further by negative self-talk.

Instead of drowning out your thoughts with social media or a Netflix binge, try giving yourself an affirmation, out loud so it resonates. Quiet moments are actually the best time to practice affirmations, saying things like, “I am worthy,” “I am successful,” or any other positive adjectives you want to use to describe your amazing self.