Jennifer, a strong and cheerful woman of 30, suffered for decades with migraine headaches so severe that she sometimes felt like she was “drowning” in pain.

With help from a doctor who suggested several ways to connect with her own inner strength, Jennifer came up with her own way to improve her life.  

Jennifer’s remarkable story is told in the short film, “I Choose Patience.” It’s part of TakeCare, a national initiative rooted in science that provides the reflection, motivation, and implementation to inspire people to create health and well-being in their lives.

As a psychotherapist and Health Advisor for the film, I see Jennifer’s story as a simple but ingenious example of how a very basic, easy tool – a mere tweak in a person’s daily living – can provide life-changing relief from the fallout of chronic suffering.

Physical pain can have a mental and emotional impact. Understanding that her words and thoughts had tremendous power over her physical and mental health, Jennifer changed her usual negative words and thoughts to more positive and helpful ones, changing her mindset. Through simple repetition of these words, she learned how treating herself kindly – with her thoughts, emotions, words, and actions – allowed her to find peace, even in the most painful situations.

The Power of Positive Thinking

For Jennifer, her recovery began when her doctor said to her, “Just be kind to yourself.” The next time Jennifer had a migraine, those words echoed in her head. She wrote on a post-it note, “I choose patience,” and that simple act led Jennifer into the habit of making personal “affirmations” – aspirational positive statements about herself, spoken as if they were already true. Then she put them into writing and left them around her house in prominent places – the bathroom mirror, her computer screen, the refrigerator door, the dashboard of her car – places where she would see them, over and over.

“I am worthy” and “I am whole” are examples of phrases that she wrote. During a migraine, Jennifer started telling herself this true statement: “I will survive this one just like every other migraine I’ve survived in the past – and so I’m just going to be patient.”

Affirmations not only make us feel good. Research shows they increase our resilience to stress, reduce defensiveness and sensitivity to threats, and increase our effectiveness at tasks. Affirmations have also even been shown to reduce alcohol consumption during stressful times.

I want to emphasize that an affirmation is not the same thing as denial, or making believe things are great when they’re not. Affirmations start with an understanding that we’re a work in progress; that things aren’t where we want them to be, but we’re on the way to seeing ourselves and our situation in a new light – a more positive light, that can grant relief from whatever burden we’re struggling with.

Changing the Narrative

“During the day there was a lot of pretending, pretending that I was okay – so much that by the time I got home there was no energy to pretend,” Jennifer confessed. “I didn’t feel like I could handle it all. I was just trying to find some sort of life raft because it felt like I was drowning in my emotions and the pain of it all.”

Jennifer’s affirmations countered these negative thoughts by helping her to focus on her strength, stamina, and resilience.

That thinking enabled the shift she was aiming for. It unlocked the further realization that she was worthy of love, peace, and understanding – all of which made a big difference in regaining control of her life.

As Jennifer said, “My migraines were the same, but how I felt about them was so different. Life throws so many different things your way and sometimes we feel like we need to be hard on ourselves in order to get better – but the world is hard enough, and you should just be kind to yourself.” 

Belleruth Naparstek, ASCW, BCD, is a psychotherapist and author. She is a leader in producing guided imagery, affirmations, and meditation audios through her organization, Health Journeys.


  • Funded by the nonprofit The Healthy US Collaborative Inc., TakeCare is a national initiative that invites people to take care of their Whole Health: Mind, Body, Spirit, and Community. Through education, community support, and highlighting the simple ways in which people have transformed their lives, TakeCare inspires a Whole Health movement for all.