Transformative Quotes for Healing: Literary nourishment for your mental health

Dr. Marina Harris

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As a child, I found magic in books.

The crinkle of the paper, the rough pages between my fingers, and the slightly dirty feel of a well-loved library book.

The way the author could capture exactly what I was feeling when I couldn’t find the words. The way their words fit into my soul like a puzzle piece.

I always believed words could heal. Now with my training as a therapist, I know words can heal.

In therapy, you can say something in just the right way for it to click for a person. Those words help them change their life. And that’s when the magic happens.

There is even science behind the healing of words. According to Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman, M.D., words can actually change the chemistry of our brain.

Positive words activate the motivational and perceptive centers of our brains. This means that focusing on positive words can motivate us to action and change how we perceive ourselves. Alternatively, negative words can also give us a negative perception of ourselves or reality.

This doesn’t mean that we should fall prey to toxic positivity, but we can use words to keep hope when hope feels impossible. Words inspire and connect us. Words help us verbalize our experience and share that experience with others. Words matter.

The power of words is critical for how we perceive reality. And words can be critical for our healing.

Here is a collection of my favorite transformative quotes to improve mental health and healing.

Infinite possibilities

“You are part of an infinite family. The people who have been through terrible things and survived them. If you are reading these words, you won today. You are here. You are alive. You have options. You can wait out a bad situation. Move on. Fight back. Get out. Break up. Call. Ask her (or him) out. Write that book. Write that song. Listen to the music. Take the drive. Take the chance. And live. Whatever strategy you choose, you win.” — Stephen Chbosky

So many people in the midst of healing believe fallacies. That they are broken, that they are unfixable, that nothing will improve, that they cannot have what they want in life. At this point in my career, I’ve worked with enough people to hear them say these beliefs, and as they grow, I see them receive what they never thought they would. When we are healing, sometimes our job is to hold these false beliefs lightly. To know that the worst is over because you already survived it. To stop believing that we are broken or that we can’t have what we want in life. To live our lives in spite of, and because of, what we’ve endured.

Build your house

“We are here to build the house. It’s our work, our job, the most important gig of all: to make a place that belongs to us, a structure composed of our own moral code. Not the code that only echoes imposed cultural values, but the one that tells us on a visceral level what to do.” — Cheryl Strayed

Cheryl Strayed is my favorite author because she beautifully balances artful prose with thoughtful, empathetic, and vulnerable advice.

We are here to build our house — to build our life worth living. For those of us who are healing, this means building a foundation from the ground up that is built on self-acceptance and compassion.

Building the house isn’t always glamorous. It’s getting your hands dirty through the mud and rain to build the foundation that can weather future storms. And sometimes you get to do fun things like pick out the flooring and the curtains — but we have to build the foundation of our life first.

Build your foundation based on the values of your life — the way you’d like to live. Our values help direct us like a lighthouse. This sets the tone for your healing. Otherwise, we are lost.

Compassion and acceptance: Understand your roots and where you’re going

"Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It is a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity." -Pema Chödrön

I believe that compassion and acceptance are at the core of healing. And at the core of compassion and acceptance, is understanding our past and what we’ve endured. Only when we can accept where we have been, where we are, and treat that information with a compassionate acknowledgment, can we truly change.

Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion researcher, and teacher, notes that compassion for our own suffering comes from the understanding that suffering is part of the human condition. We all suffer, but in different ways. And when we can connect our own suffering with the suffering of others, our burden becomes lighter because we are sharing it. When we treat our own suffering like we would that of a friend, we are practicing compassion.

These are critical parts of the healing process.

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” — Brené Brown

Vulnerability is another concept that works alongside acceptance and compassion. Vulnerability is what opens our hearts to possibilities.

When we are vulnerable, we are able to forge meaningful connections. Vulnerability helps us heal by sharing our truth with trusted others.

Vulnerability comes from a place of understanding. It enables us to be aware of our thoughts, feelings, and inner experience enough to share that with someone else. There is something incredibly important about vulnerability that helps us move us towards healing.

But it takes courage to be vulnerable.

Courage

"You aren’t headed out to find courage. Its in you, it’s blooming, and it is with you as you travel and say yes to things that seem scary." — Annie Downs

Courage is not a destination, it is a direction we walk towards. If we wait to “have courage,” we wouldn’t do anything that was scary.

We can’t wait to find courage. We have to do what is scary — even if it’s only one step towards the scary thing. The more you do what’s scary, the more you find your courage. But you can’t do that without taking the first step.

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Do the next right thing

“Food is something I am going to have to face at least three times a day for the rest of my life. And I am not perfect. But one really bad day does not mean that I am hopeless and back at square one with my eating disorder. Olympic ice skaters fall in their quest for the gold. Heisman Trophy winners throw interceptions. Professional singers forget the words. And people with eating disorders sometimes slip back into an old pattern. But all of these individuals just pick themselves back up and do the next right thing. The ice skater makes the next jump. The football player throws the next pass. The singer finishes the song. And I am going to eat breakfast.” — Jenni Schaeffer

Jenni Schaeffer shows us that little steps lead to big changes. Healing can feel like this huge, insurmountable mountain. But it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes, all we need to do is put one foot in front of the other.

Whenever you are making a decision, ask yourself, “Is this taking steps towards my healing? Is this giving me rest and recovery? Is this consistent with the life I want to build?”

Do the next right thing that answers “yes” to these questions. Even when it’s incredibly difficult.

Conclusion

“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both influencing injury, and remedying it.” — Albus Dumbledore; J.K. Rowling

Words can provide solace to us in our darkest hours. Sometimes words can keep us hanging on when hanging on feels impossible.

That is nothing short of a small miracle.

I hope these quotes give you courage. I hope they move you toward self-acceptance and compassion. I hope these words help you find the bravery to take steps towards the right thing. I hope they allow you to build your house.

The possibilities are infinite.

What are the transformative quotes in your life that have improved your mental health?

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PhD in Clinical Psychology | Science-backed advice for living your best life | Expert on eating disorders, relationships, and athlete mental health | Former Division I Athlete

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