You turn red. Next, your inner voice chimes in: I can’t believe I just said that! For the rest of the day, you ruminate over the conversation, coming up with a million things you could’ve done differently.
That kind of self-trashing talk is the top behavior blocking us from living a life of freedom and happiness. Obsessing over little comments, jokes we made that didn’t land, or even outfits we wore prevents us from taking chances, meeting new people, and trying new things. Over time, it can wear down our confidence, which is no small matter: Low self-esteem is linked to depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.
So the next time you get down (on yourself), try one of these simple actions to get back up.
1. Be curious about others
When self-criticism crops up in social settings, turn to the person next to you and ask her questions about herself. Even obvious queries (Where are you from? What are your hobbies?) can shift your focus from your internal monologue.
People love to share their interests, and their positive energy will boost your mood-and get you out of your own head.
2. Have a reminder ready
Write an affirmation like “I release this judgment and I return to peace” on a sticky note and tuck it in your wallet. Whenever you disparage something you said or did, take it out and meditate on the words by repeating them silently.
3. Laugh at the mad ideas
Simply chuckling at your inner bully can drain its power. When your fault-finding voice says something like, Why did I make such a dumb joke? Everyone probably feels awkward for me, laugh and say, Come on. What’s life without some humor?
4. Make feeling good your priority
When we feel “less than,” we often try to ignore it because it’s uncomfortable. Instead, notice the judgment, then ask yourself what you can do to move to a more positive mindset. It could be jotting down three things you’re grateful for, or doing five minutes of yoga-anything that brings you joy.
As you strengthen this habit, you’ll be able to acknowledge negative feelings without giving them so much power, and return to a happy, confident state much faster.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Women's Health. For more great advice, pick up a copy of the issue on newsstands now!