How Positive Affirmations Saved My Life

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Whitney Anne Ellis

A decade ago, I found myself battling a bad bout of depression.  Scared to face the world, living life under the covers.  Letting my negative thoughts knock the light out of me.

At the time, I felt devastatingly hopeless. I call this my blue period. It was gloomy, dark and like living inside a Russian novel. An existential crisis, general angst or melancholy. Whatever it was, I was miserable. 

Then one day, I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I couldn’t stand myself. I was driving everyone around me crazy, with my self-focused misery. I was ready to make a change. To start painting in another color other than gun metal blue.

I made two decisions. 

One, that I would wake up and make my bed every day. 

And two, that I was going to change my thoughts, because my thoughts were what had led me to the quagmire of despair.

I started with making my bed. 

That was a challenge at first. I was so down in the dumps, that I practically lived on top of my Tempurpedic. My mattress had become my refuge. Now it was time to rejoin humanity.

Little did I know that Mel Robbins, an inspirational speaker who I admire and respect a great deal, did the exact same thing to change her life. She used the 5 second rule to get out of bed and move her life forward in INCREDIBLE ways! This simple act became the catalyst for her book and a TedTalk that has had millions of views. Check it out. 

Day after day.  The alarm went off, I got up and made my bed. That was it. Rinse and repeat. Before I knew it I was ready to step outside. 

But there was a major problem, my mind wanted me to give up and go back to bed.

I had a decision to make. Listen to my negative thoughts and keep going down a dark path or change my thoughts. 

My brain’s thermostat was set to negative, like most people’s. 

It’s called negativity bias. A phrase coined by Paul Rozin and Edward Poyzman. 

What is negativity bias?

In basic terms, the human mind tends to focus on the negative. This tendency can be useful on occasions. It is meant to help protect us.

Theoretically, the negativity bias provides an evolutionary advantage, as it is more critical for survival to avoid a harmful stimulus than to pursue a potentially helpful one.

On the flipside, negative thoughts stick and persist. They can plummet your self-esteem, smash your dreams and keep you from living a joyful, fulfilled life,

Negativity bias can deter us from using logic and reasoning leading to poorly thought-out decisions, and possibly, unfavorable outcomes. Interestingly, the negativity bias may play a role in beliefs about self-efficacy as well as our self-esteem.

Our negativity bias has left many of us miserable, hopeless and downright depressed.

That was exactly where I found myself a decade ago. Unable to focus on anything but my glass being half empty.

Is there a way to change our negative thoughts?

Yes! Science has proven that what you think your mind believes. Your thoughts and beliefs impact your behavior and create your habits. It’s called cognitive fusion. 

The average human has over 60,000 thoughts a day. Most are habitual.

Which means, the way you think is a habit, developed over days, months, and years. Some of you are like…WHAT??? I can’t control how I think, it just happens. 

Can we control our thoughts?

Yes and no. A lot of our thoughts are subconscious. 

See also  How to Stop Failing at Achieving Big Goals

But as we become more aware of our thoughts, we can become more in control of them by changing the habit of how we think. 

We can change our thoughts by choosing what we focus on. 

We can create new thought sequences, patterns, and combinations to make the brain work differently. 

For example, today I accidentally knocked over a steaming hot latte that cost me $7! I hadn’t even had a sip out of it yet, I turned my back and it fell off the table and smacked against the wall. Coffee everywhere.

I cleaned up the mess and thought, either I focus on the inconvenience and upset of this spill. OR I can enjoy the 30% of the hot coffee that is left in the cup, and use this experience to my advantage. As a lesson, an example in my article. Clearly, I did the latter.

10 years ago, I would’ve focused on the hot mess, because I was a hot mess. 

That is until I started to become aware of how my thoughts were impacting my entire life. 

Back then, my day-to-day thoughts went something like this: 

  • “I am not good enough.”
  • “I don’t deserve to be alive.” 
  • “All my efforts don’t matter.”
  • “I don’t matter.” 
  • “I am too much.”

I grew up in a psychologically unhealthy household and had a boyfriend who liked to remind me how worthless I was. I DEEPLY believed these negative thoughts were TRUE & FACTUAL, and acted accordingly. So it was no wonder, I went into a downward spiral. My feelings and behaviors were a direct result of my thought patterns.

Once I was ready to crawl out of the quagmire of despair, make my bed and face the world. 

I decided I was ready to change the habit of my thoughts. I wanted them to serve me instead of  hurt me.

First I became aware of what I was thinking.

Then I scribbled down more helpful thoughts onto a deck of cheap white index cards. 

Phrases like:

  •  “I am worthy of being happy.” 
  •  “I can change my life one small step at a time.” 
  •  “I am enough.” 
  •  “I can do anything I set my mind to do.”

At the time, I didn’t know these phrases were positive affirmations.

But that is what they were. 

I had two rules about my written positive affirmations. 

  • They had to resonate with me.
  • I had to feel the weight of the words in my body.

Intuitively, these affirmations had to feel TRUE to me, even if I didn’t fully believe them yet.

I carried these affirmation cards with me, everywhere I went.  I read the phrases frequently. Every step I took, I read an affirmation. 

Then things began to shift. My brain started to make new positive connections and associations.

One card, one thought, one step at time. 

Until, the darkness lifted. It was slow magic. 

I was reprogramming my brain. 

Changing my thought habits and my life! 

My entire state of being was moving in a positive direction.

Like going to the gym to get fit, I was doing the reps. I was changing my thought habits, one thought at time, and it was F*cking Working! 

What is an affirmation?

Whether negative or positive, it’s a phrase that you validate and confirm. You show or express a strong belief by affirming it.

How do affirmations work?

Our thoughts create our reality. Napoleon Hill said it best in his famous book Think and Grow Rich:

“It is a well known fact that one comes, finally, to believe whatever one repeats to one’s self whether the statement be true or false. If a man repeats a lie over and over, he will eventually accept the lie as truth. Moreover, he will believe it to be the truth. Every man is what he is because of the dominating thoughts which he permits to occupy his/her mind.” 

An affirmation is thought, that you are affirming and believing. You are telling your mind, this is what we are focusing on now. As you focus on it, your brain releases chemicals and makes connections. Then you start believing the affirmations you keep repeating to yourself.

See also  How to Stop Failing at Achieving Big Goals

Do positive affirmations reprogram the brain?

According to neuroscience, YES! Self-affirmations can alter key pathways in the brain and have shown evidence of lasting positive benefits.

Positive affirmations can:

  • Create new pathways in your brain.
  • Positively alter your thoughts, feelings and habits.
  • Improve yourself sense of self-worth, reduce anxiety and benefit your overall well-being. 

You can read more about the amazing results in this case study

Why do positive affirmations work?

Because of this formula: 

Your thoughts create your feelings which create your behaviors/habits which create your results. 

If you want to feel more positive about your life, choose positive thoughts, which will create more pleasant feelings and more supportive behaviors/habits and results.

You have developed the habit of negative thinking for YEARS.

Positive affirmations are a simple, helpful tool to help you begin the transformation process!

To help you reprogram the brain, to focus on the positive and to notice the resources and value you already possess inside of you. 

Watch this incredible video to learn more about how your thoughts effect your life:

Why are positive affirmations important?

The old, well-established pathways in your brain have led you exactly where you are today. And if you don’t like where you are today, then it’s time to make a change. 

If you want to experience a life full of joy, peace and self-belief, positive affirmations are the first stepping stone to get you there.

After years of using my affirmation cards, I am no longer that depressed girl who believes she is worthless. I no longer see life in a foggy shade of gun metal blue. I see all of life in its many colors. 

Today, I still carry around my affirmation cards. Often finding them tucked in books, hidden in drawers, lingering in pockets. I call them self-love notes. They inspire me to keep going. 

I can honestly say, positive affirmations saved my life. 

I am happy to be alive. I am powerful. I am joyful. I am transformed. 

I changed my life, one thought, one step and one affirmation at time. 

And now I am sharing my story with you. 

I’ve also become a Life Coach, so I can help people experience lasting breakthroughs and transform their lives, so they can start living a life they TRULY love. 

I have also created affirmation cards to bring hope and healing to others. 

They are called A Deck of HopeThe deck includes 52 beautiful and inspiring affirmation cards to help you, no matter what you are going through. 

Check them out here.

//DISCLAIMER// All content has been prepared for informational and educational purposes only. If you need professional help please seek it. If you’re in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, find help in your area with Find a helpline

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Writer Whitney Ellis

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