10 Books & Other Activities To Stop Toxic Behavior

A couple years ago, I came across a quote on Pinterest that said, “Be so busy improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others.” I fell in love with it. Constantly comparing yourself to the people around you is arguably one of the quickest ways to develop toxic behaviors and mentalities. Suddenly, you feel the need to gossip about friends behind their backs, act victimized to get the approval you feel you need, and complain so much that you lose track of everything good in your life. I know, because I’ve been there. If everyone around you is always “the bad guy,” then you feel no need to improve yourself, and while that might seem like the safest way to move through life (with your guard up and your hands in front of your face), I promise you — no one ever makes any progress while they’re waiting for other people to change.

As an English major and a writer, my form of toxic-behavior-rehab naturally came in the form of self-help books. I’ve got more of them on my bookshelf than I’m comfortable admitting, but they’ve proven to be instrumental in my ability to quit complaining, let things go, and develop a sense of compassion for other people. Here’s a list of the best books (and other tricks) to teach you how to shine the spotlight on yourself for a while, so you can ditch the toxicity and become the best person you can be.

Stop Wishing & Start Working

Just Start , $24, Amazon

When it comes to toxicity, all talk and no action is a huge red flag. Just Start is a must-read for any perfectionist or serial-planner who never seems to get started. It’s written by three business leaders (Leonard Schlesinger, Charles Kiefer, and Paul B. Brown) who believe that it’s impossible to predict every step of your progress, and holding off in an attempt to try is the quickest way to guarantee failure. This book teaches you how to embrace uncertainty and start where you are, no matter where that may be, so you can move towards where you want to be instead of wallowing in stagnancy.

Learn To Embrace Your Flaws

The Gifts Of Imperfection , $10, Amazon

People are going nuts over The Gifts Of Imperfection because it’s one of the few books that requires no immediate change at all. Instead, it’s all about accepting what is, and who you are right now. Brene Brown is an expert on shame, belonging, and human behavior, and because of it, she creates a narrative that’s both innovative and easy to follow. She outlines 10 guideposts that help you to observe your thinking and behavior and find acceptance within yourself, so you can go to bed every night with the belief, “No matter what I did or did not do today, I am enough.”

(Psst! Listen to this title through Audible, and get two free audiobooks when you test the 30-day trial.)

Find An Outlet For Creativity

Let It Go Coloring Book , $12, Amazon

Creativity is a wonderful thing, but if it’s constantly stifled because responsibilities tend to get in the way, you’ll find yourself becoming more and more stressed and negative. The Let It Go coloring book has top ratings because it’s an easy and convenient way to unleash your creativity and unwind on a daily basis. It’s filled with 40 pages of beautiful and intricate designs fit for an adult, and every illustration comes paired with an interesting quote. This book was created by an Los Angeles-based illustrator named Sherise Seven, who’s got a love for art, meditation, and fun, and reviewers say that the unique drawings provide all of those things and more.

Stop Being Codependent

The New Codependency , $11, Amazon

If you constantly look to other people to provide your own happiness and reassurance, this one's for you. Twenty-five years ago, Melody Beattie wrote a best-selling book about codependency after overcoming her rough background with drug addiction, abduction, and sexual abuse. Now she’s back with a new volume that outlines the issues behind codependency in a modern light. Using her honest and insightful voice in The New Codependency , Beattie explains the difference between nurturing someone and enabling them, loving yourself and being narcissistic, and standing up for yourself and controlling everything. She then leads the reader through a step-by-step process that teaches how to find a healthy balance and redefine your relationship, so that you don’t lose yourself within it. Instead, you reclaim your individuality and learn to be happy despite your circumstances.

(Psst! Listen to this title through Audible here.)

Quit Complaining For Good

A Complaint Free World , $8, Amazon

While complaining might seem therapeutic in the moment, it’s actually one of the most destructive things you can do for your friendships and your own well-being. Internationally best-selling A Complaint Free World is a practical and straightforward book that teaches people what constitutes a complaint and how to kick the habit once and for all. The author, Will Bowen, appeared on Oprah, as well as The Today Show, and he’s of the belief that it takes 21 days to break a habit. So, he issues a challenge that prompts just that: Give up your negative comments for just 21 days, and see what happens. Reviewers say it’s one of the few books they’ve read with the potential to change the world, and Bowen’s beautiful storytelling and relatable humor make this an incredibly enjoyable read.

(Psst! Listen to this title through Audible here.)

Let Go Of The Stuff That Doesn’t Suit You Anymore

The Sedona Method , $12, Amazon

In a genre that’s overflowing with books about daily exercises, visualizations, and acting happy, The Sedona Method is a breath of fresh air, and it remains one of the best self-help books I’ve ever read. While most people try to plaster a happy face over unhappy thoughts, Hale Dwoskin gives you realistic and practical tactics for letting go of the thoughts and feelings that no longer suit you. It allows you to accept and release emotions and beliefs that you’ve been carrying around since childhood (and that you’ve been avoiding like the plague), so you can start to rewrite your life in any category — relationships, wealth, or health.

Learn How To Cultivate Mindfulness

Guided Meditations For Calmness, Awareness, And Love, $5, Amazon

While meditation started to reform my thinking the very same day I started, I didn’t know why until years later, when I started to research it. It turns out that meditation changes your brain chemistry, prompting new growth of grey matter, which leads to happier thoughts and more empathy. In my opinion, guided meditations are a great place to start, and that’s why this meditations guide is a must-have for anyone trying to break into the practice. Because it’s straightforward and informative, but still super relaxing, it’s especially helpful for people who have no prior experience. A soothing voice leads you through three different practices which cultivate mindfulness and a sense of inner peace, and reviewers say that it was so helpful, they’d give it six stars if they could.

(Psst! Listen to this title through Audible here.)

Focus On The Good In Your Life

Instant Happy Journal, $10, Amazon

When things go wrong (which they inevitably will from time to time), it’s easy to forget that you’ve got tons to be thankful about. This happy journal challenges you to spend 365 days realigning your thoughts, so that they’re filled with love and gratitude. Every day is a new prompt — things like “list today’s mini-miracles,” and “reframe a story from your day, so failure equals wisdom." Plus, because it’s brightly colored, filled with inspirational quotes, and has tons of room to write, you’ll be inspired to start your day off with some much-needed optimism.

Get A Lesson In Empathy

Chicken Soup For The Soul: Think Positive , $10, Amazon

The Chicken Soup For The Soul series is the king of eliciting compassion for others, and Think Positive is no exception. Jack Canfield (award-winning speaker and author of more than 150 books) is a master at collecting real stories from people that illustrate how we’re all connected, and how we all have way more in common than we ever would’ve realized. This book has 101 accounts of people who have learned to alter their attitudes, count their blessings, and move forward in the face of adversity. This book helps you connect with humanity on a deeper level, and hopefully follow their examples of success. It’s great for anyone who tends to talk more than they listen, and because it’s emotional and raw, you won’t be able to put it down.

(Psst! Listen to this title through Audible here.)

Set Boundaries For Yourself And Others

Where To Draw The Line , $11, Amazon

While it’s admittedly pretty easy to let people, work, and negative situations permeate every area of your life, a non-toxic person is someone who isolates the pessimistic emotions and stops them from spoiling everything else. Where To Draw The Line is a book by Anne Katherine (a certified mental health counselor and renowned speaker) that teaches you how to preserve your integrity by making distinctions between what’s okay and what’s not, both in regard to your own actions and someone else’s. In plain, everyday language, this book explains how behavior can be considered invasive in every scenario from work to divorce, and what you can do to stop it.

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