Toxicity in your life can take a number of forms, and we all feel it differently. Personally, a lot of my unhappiness and anxiety tends to manifest itself in intense procrastination and avoidance. If my personal spaces are messy, there's a good chance my life is messy, too. But honestly, like, it's 2016 and my main resolution this year is actively pursuing happiness. So here are 15 little ways to make your life less toxic. Because we do not have time for this pettiness. Nope. Not anymore. We have things to do.
Humans can be toxic. Parents, friends, even you yourself may be having a negative effect on other peoples' lives. Places can toxic — offices, school environments, home. There are steps we can make, big, giant steps, to remove these toxic elements from our lives or, at the very least, deal with the fallout.
But sometimes there isn't a huge, overwhelming force of negativity in our lives and we still face unhappiness. Or we can't quite work up the courage or the resources to make these big, giant steps of action. There are little things we can do to combat toxicity and negativity, things that we can do right now, in a matter of minutes, that will make a difference.
1. Buy a Plant
Preferably one that isn't easy to kill, like a succulent. Waking up every morning and checking on my plant babies is a very small way of being held accountable to another living thing. Plus, watching them grow never ceases to amaze me.
2. Make a Thank You Jar
Write down one thing — it can be big or small or silly or whatever — that you are grateful for each night before you go to bed on a slip of paper. Put that slip of paper in a jar. Watch that jar fill up over the course of the year as a tangible reminder of why you're here.
3. Do Some Laundry
According to a poll by the National Sleep Foundation, 73 percent of people sleep better on fresh sheets. So wash your sheets, ya filthy animals.
4. Buy a Journal
For years, I hated the concept of journaling, but recently, having massively increased my time on digital devices (the life of a freelancer but also just a Netflix addict), I've found taking a few moments before bed to actually put a pen to paper and get out any anxiety, any nastiness, any unpleasantness — all those toxic feelings that gnaw at me while I sleep — has been cutting down on the number of times I wake up in a cold sweat because I can't stop obsessing a mistake I made at work a year ago.
5. Start Meditating
New York Magazine just published a great beginner's guide to meditation. Just try it. Nothing bad will happen, I promise.
6. Clean Out Your Inbox
You don't need that email about your favorite online retailer's Labor Day sale anymore, nor do you need 15 one-word messages from your mom (sorry, Mom). Surround yourself with clean spaces and it can have an effect on your mental space as well. Create folders and save any old, important emails so the next time you need your bank routing number you're not frantically searching through three years of messages.
7. Tidy Up Your Phone
Un-install apps that you never use. Clear out your text messages. Go through your contacts, and delete your ex's number. I know you have at least one in there because we all do. Delete it and move on.
8. Sweep Out Your Social Media Accounts
If there are people whose posting habits cause you stress or pain or sadness, delete them from your online environment. Hate-following someone only does you a disservice.
9. Make Your Bed
Or do the dishes, or sweep the floor. Finding moments to create a more balanced, clean environment can ease anxiety.
10. Smudge Your Space
The general concept of smudging a space is: The smoke from burning herbs will soak up the negative energy in your home and carry it out the open door or window (you have to open your doors and windows, by the way). Check out a great guide to the practice here.
11. Learn Your Love Language
Talking about this concept makes me feel like a hippie earth mama (which I don't hate, to be honest), but understanding more about how you express love and affections is an important step to strengthening your relationships. Read more about the five "languages" — words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, physical touch — here.
12. Wish More People a "Happy Birthday"
This only takes a few minutes each day (thank you, Facebook), but consciously making time to brighten another person's day brings about endless positive vibes. It's a nice thing to do. So do it.
13. Educate Yourself on Emotional Labor
Two of my best college friends and I recently got together to discuss life, essentially, and the discussion of emotional labor — the phenomenon in which one person in a relationship does all the caring and carrying of emotional weight — had us examining past relationships for hours. Read up on it here. It might illuminate some things.
14. Discover an Organizational Method That Works for You
I have tried strategy after strategy, but my non-linear thinking tends to get in the way of my organizational abilities. Recently, I was turned onto the Bullet Journal method and already I'm amped up.
15. Find a Therapist
OK, so this isn't really a "little" thing. The process of finding a therapist who works for you and who you can afford is, honestly, the worst sometimes. But after years of insisting that I was fine on my own, I've finally come around to the belief that there are times in our lives when pretty much everyone would benefit from talking to somebody. One of my favorite podcasts, "Another Round," recently discussed the ins and outs of finding a therapist during their 34th episode, "The Most Introverted Sasha Fierce."