I was looking at tank tops this weekend in the store when a woman said they were slutty to her husband about two feet away from me. She then said: “I don’t know why anyone would wear them.” I looked her in the eye and told her that I wear them to be modest, so I can lean over students, and so I can bend over to pick up things without showing skin. She looked very uncomfortable/sheepish and walked away with her husband. However, even if it wasn’t for modesty purposes, we live in Georgia- not Antartica. There are days in the summer here that I question how people wear any clothing outside, period. After this experience though, I’ve had a lot of prevailing feelings about society and what I see around me.
I often wonder: can’t we use kinder words with each other? I see such patronizing, polarizing, and generalizing language used all around me and everywhere I turn. My thoughts aren’t about political correctness, rather, they are about the lack of kindness I see. I may or may not agree or disagree with people, but I care more about how people go about things and treat each other anyway.
We’re better than this.
I’ve found myself repeating this over and over since before November even came around. Facebook, other social medias, and the news have become a toxic cesspool for people to voice their dissatisfaction for life. People just aren’t happy and I feel like the world could use a little more happiness and less toxicity. Below are things that I have done to feel happier and have less toxic influences in my life and I definitely recommend them.
1 | SPEND TIME BY YOURSELF
Some people may not be the reflective type, but I think everyone can benefit from this exercise. Take some some time and disconnect to figure out what it is that is actually bothering you. Things that are toxic in your life could very easily be internally or externally generated. When your life feels like it is full of chaos, it is often really difficult to pinpoint where it is coming from. When I spend time by myself, I often just start writing to see what comes out. I am often surprised at what I realize is bothering me. For others, maybe you need to talk out loud. Where is your brain going when it has the space to be free?
2 | TAKE OFFENDING SOCIAL MEDIA OFF OF YOUR PHONE
While this may seem simple, it took me a while to figure out that I needed to remove Facebook from my phone. Out of habit, I still find myself looking at it, but not having the notifications has given me a much more distraction free day. When I have found that someone’s post continuously is negative, political, or just unkind (regardless of whether I agree with the root opinion or not), I unfollow them. I have unfollowed hundreds of people on my Facebook feed and I’m not going back.
There are days when I happily take Twitter or Instagram off of my phone. If needs be, just unfriend people. Your happiness is worth it. Social media friendship is a privilege and not a right.
if your toxicity isn’t external, but rather is how you compare yourself to others from social media, then it is okay to just disconnect from it! There have been times when I have had to unfollow people on Instagram when life just felt very difficult and when I could handle it, I readded them; that’s okay. However, allowing yourself to do nothing to help solve the problem is not. When we were in Europe, we had extremely limited internet connection or none and I found it to be one of the biggest times in my life that I was generating ideas.
3 | WRITE A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
I used to write a daily gratitude journal and post them monthly. I stopped posting them because they were more for me than my reader, but there were some months they really helped me kind of survive. You know those months when you feel like you literally can’t crawl out of bed because things seem so bad? Those are the times a gratitude journal really can help give you perspective. While it won’t erase the things that are not going well in your life, I do believe that having gratitude will at least help you realize that amidst the chaos that is life- there is so much good too. Some days it was a struggle to come up with one and other days it was easy to write out 20 things that made me happy.
4 | MAKE A BOX OF HAPPY MEMORIES
I mentioned once that greeting cards and the messages people write them are probably my love language- I wasn’t kidding. Although I am not one to keep a lot of extra things that have no decorative value in my home, I normally keep a small box of cards people have sent me. My favorite thing to do when I have a bad day is to find the notes people wrote me in college and what they said about me. I always feel so incredibly special when I read these.
For you, your box might be full of photos of family. Mine has some of those.
Maybe a box isn’t your thing because it is just extra stuff. Well, I have another solution for you: in my first year of teaching, I kept a private blog online where I wrote down the praise or compliments I received from students and parents. On days when things were tough with teaching, I found myself perusing through those messages and they helped buoy me up. Maybe this would be a resource you would like.
5 | DECIDE IF YOU CAN DO SOMETHING
In the situation I shared above, I could do something: I stated how I felt to the woman. I chose to do so because I was calm, I was in person so my message wouldn’t be misconstrued, and because I felt my opinion was worth the possible negative implications that it could cause.
These are some questions to ask yourself if you realize a situation is toxic in your life and you want to do something about it:
- Can you remove yourself from the situation or do you have to stay with it?
- Are you making this decision while you are calm or are you emotionally reactive?
- Do the long-term benefits outweigh the short-term consequences of doing something about it?
If you can’t do something about the situation, then now is your time to really dig deep and decide how you will further handle the toxicity in your life.
- Is there a hobby you haven’t pursued in a long time?
- Is there a movie that makes you unabashedly laugh?
- Are there little things that make your world feel brighter that you have been neglecting?
While our situations often aren’t as simplistic as the one I experienced at the store, I’ve had many situations in my life where I have had to evaluate. From that, I had to decide if I was contributing to and or allowing toxicity into my life when I could otherwise help it. I’ve found that even though the solutions aren’t always easy that the result is definitely worth it.